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Pains of Youth


By Ferdinand Bruckneroracle theatre

Adapted by Martin Crimp

Directed by Joshua Altman

Produced by Odradek Theatre

in association with Oracle productions

At Oracle Theatre, Chicago

Stilted translation and confusing timeline doom Austrian drama

Martin Crimp’s translation from German to English for Ferdinand Bruckner’s 1926 play Pains of Youth yields a stiff, too academic, use of words that no college student would use in common speaking especially a group of hedonistic pleasure-seeking students. Add the confusing timeline- Bruckner is dramatizing the disillusioned your from post World War One Vienna that had traits similar to those F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about   from Paris during the ’20’s.  By dressing the cast in hipster contemporary clothing and using a iPod, I’m guessing director Joshua Altman has updated the play to 2013?

oracle theatre

This play is filled with seven totally dysfunctional, deluded, and neurotic characters that are so crazy that it stretches credulity to believe that they would be able to stand the rigors of medical school. The degree of lunacy varies with each of the unlikeable characters. From Marie (Laura Lapidus), the rich recent doctor to Freder (Kevin Duvall) the too horny womanized with a violent streak to an assortment of love stricken weaklings, Pains of Youth unfolds as one hour and fifth minutes of weird behavior that moves so fast that we can’t seem to follow all the motivations much less the action. We get that most want to screw someone else and that each have personality  flaws that seem to render them socially dysfunctional.

I’m guess the rational for mounting this condensed version of a dated play was all the juicy roles for the cast? But it probably never occurred to the producers that audiences wouldn’t appreciate such a muddled and confusing work. Clarity and focus and not so much over-the-top performances would greatly enhance this show but as now presented, it is isn’t worth your time despite the free admittance at Oracle Theatre.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 27, 2013

For more info checkout the Pains of Youth page at

At Oracle Theatre, 3809 N. Broadway, Chicago, Il, free tickets,,  Friday, Saturday, Mondays at 8pm, running time is 1 hour 55 minutes with intermission, through October 13, 2013

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