REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

They Are Dying Out

By Peter HandkeThey Are Dying Out

Translated by Michael Roloff

Directed by MaxTruax

At Trap Door Theatre, Chicago

Intense performance convey Hanke’s attack on large corporations

In keeping with their tradition of mounting avant-garde European theatre works, Trap Door taps Austrian playwright Pater Handke’s They Are Dying Out – a blistering attack on the power and foibles of  CEO’s of large international corporations.

This is an intense, wordy, and, at times difficult to understand diatribe about a weird CEO, Hermann Quitt (a emotionally taunt Kevin Cox) who moves from collaboration to sabotaging his relations with other heads of large corporations. We see these business leaders meeting, plotting and maneuvering to get their corporations to the head of the pack.  The satire runs deep; the absurdity is overwhelming; and the seer intensity is hypnotic.

They Are Dying Out at Trapdoor theatre

They Are Dying Out is an exercise in acting acumen. The eight person cast, led by the powerful work of Kevin Cox, deftly wonders through maze of rapid-fire monologues and wordy personal and philosophical attacks on society, advertising, and corporate greed. Filled with screaming and theatricality, this two hour absudists work is tedious and taxing. It is intended for those who love avante-garde styled European theatre. One can’t help but be impressed with the deep commitment of the players to the work. They fully engage their character’s foibles and zaniness and they deliver their dense speeches with ferocity and wit.

The press notes state:  ” Riddled with absurdity and farce, Handke’s They Are Dying Out is an epic meditation on the corporate mindset and how it infects the souls of those who engage it. Business mogul Hermann Quitt knows that it is impossible for him to live up to his own ideal image. This knowledge makes him an amoral monster who humiliates his wife and mistress, breaks agreements and contracts, betrays and ruins his business associates, and leads him to commit the ultimate crime.”

I’m not sure if they production conveys the above character deterioration since I got lost in a some of the long, rambling speeches. But for those loving highly theatrical and intense satire, Trap Door’s They Are Dying Out will give them an intensity fix.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 3, 2012

For more info checkout the They Are Dying Out page at

At Trap Door Theatre,  1655 West Cortland Street  Chicago, IL,  773-384-0494,, tickets $2- – $25, Thursdays,Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through March 24, 2012

One thought on “They Are Dying Out

  • I wanted to add one more comment. It is not that I was unaware when preparing the
    translation for its 1979 Yale Drama School premiere that some of the arias were rather demanding on American audiences. Therefore I sought to prevail on my friends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to supply some songs that would cut to the quick of these monologues – especially since they had some left-over
    Brechtian songs from an ill-fated venture of theirs, THE INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING MATCH. So we had half a dozen songs but then needed a few others, and Leiber, who didn’t write another song after 1975, could be gotten to write them; but some months of fine Sunday brunches at his mews at Patchin place are
    fondly remembered. I introduced Leiber to Handke in Paris, Handke much liked his early R + B type comic work with The Coasters [Yakety Yak, Poison Ivy, etc.,] but even that didnt do the trick of restarting the Leiber engine, who later claimed to have “collaborated” with Handke. DYING OUT does have quite a few Brechtian aspects. x michael r.

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