PRE-PARADISE, SORRY NOW, Trap Door Theatre. In an age dominated by flat-footed realists it’s hard not to yearn for writers with dash and daring like playwright-filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Call him a nihilist, call him cracked–he was both, and a drug addict to boot–Fassbinder never bored his audiences with the predictable or conventional. Given the subject of the notorious 60s “moors murders” in England–perpetrated by two psychotics (superbly played by Steve Walker and Sandra Walter) trying to prove through torture and murder that they were members of a superior race–most writers would have produced a docudrama. But in this 1970 play Fassbinder uses the serial murders as a rebuttal of sorts to the Living Theatre’s hopelessly optimistic Paradise Now, which described a peaceful, free-love utopia only a revolution away.
Intercutting scenes from the murderers’ lives with scenes of the sex, drugs, and violence rampant in Europe at the time, Fassbinder exposes the lunacy of believing one is a member of a master race capable of perfecting the human gene pool through genocide. The result is an intellectually rich, stylistically daring but flawed work. For reasons that are never clear, Fassbinder repeats some scenes verbatim three times, a trick that works wonderfully when Michael S. Pieper’s ensemble are up to delivering the same lines in three very different styles–and falls flat when they aren’t. –Jack Helbig