Germany: The Power to Shock

On a heavily subsidized stage, a Walpurgisnacht of excess -- and an enduring courage to confront uncomfortable issues

Onstage vomiting, with visual effects, four times, including a mass upheaval by a dozen actors at once. Excretion, with sound effects, three times. Full frontal nudity, three times, plus two lavish displays of dildoes. Onstage copulation, involving every imaginable combination of genders, countless times in seven separate works. Plus incest, transvestism, self-mutilation, murder.

That is a partial tally of deliberate affronts to the audience in 15 acclaimed stage shows from East and West Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Bremen, Bochum and Schwerin. All were imported for, or staged locally to enrich, last month's Berlin Theatertreffen, the city's 27th annual festival of productions from...

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