But as a contemporary reimagining of Schnitzler, “Doktor Alici” is only half successful. While the political maneuverings around Dr. Alici and the anti-Turkish prejudices they bring out are well dramatized, there is little sense of moral outrage. I’m not sure why pushing the story into the near future was necessary: The dystopian mood gets in the way of the present conflicts that the play examines, and Ms. Bach’s social critique is not as strong as Mr. Mondtag’s finely honed aesthetic. With its stark lighting, ghoulish makeup and cartoonish sets, the production looks great, but the conflicts that Ms. Bach dramatizes seem neither as ethically fraught nor as socially urgent as the ones that Schnitzler explored over a century ago.
While Ms. Bach’s political tenor seems off, she has produced a well-made play, and the Kammerspiele has cast it sensitively. Neither of which can be said for “Rojava,” a world premiere by the Kurdish-Viennese playwright Ibrahim Amir at the Volkstheater in Vienna. “Rojava” is about an idealistic student who sets off for the Kurdish self-governing region in northern Syria that the play is named after, to create a utopia alongside the local freedom fighters. There he finds danger, adventure, camaraderie and, yes, romance.
Mr. Amir’s first play, “Pleasure to Meet You,” done at a small theater in Vienna, won the prestigious Nestroy prize in 2013. “Rojava,” at one of the city’s main theaters, explodes onstage with a megadose of melodrama, kitsch and self-importance.
One bright spot is the Kurdish music, performed live by four musicians and co-written by Sandy Lopicic, the play’s talented director, who was given the impossible task of making Mr. Amir’s clunky and repetitive dialogue seem anything less than amateurish and inept. What with the awkward time leaps, the narrative gaps, the tiresome speechifying and a highly predictable love story, I wished I could have left at intermission.
Dramatizing current events in a compelling artistic way, without brimstone or treacle, is devilishly difficult. If Ms. Jelinek’s acerbic play has a whiff of Vienna’s storied bitterness and cynicism, Mr. Amir shows us the opposite side of the coin: sentimentality and schlock.