Apr 242022

Yana Ross

Short interviews with mean men – 22 types of loneliness reviews 2022

“There is an express warning against this theater: «Verbal violence and live sex» occur here. The audience could leave the performance at any time. But first everyone wants to get in, to the premiere of «Short interviews with nasty men – 22 types of loneliness», based on a book by cult author David Foster Wallace. On Saturday evening, the guests in the shipbuilding department listened to the corona safety regulations with a slight impatience until they are finally channeled through the entrance and right through the stage.
It’s getting down to business before I’ve even found my seat. The porn actors have already positioned themselves in a glass box: Katie Pears (48) and Conny Dachs (57) are performing: in and out, from the front, from behind, from the side. Looking away is not possible! The two do it with stoic equanimity, toneless and listless. The term “getting down to business” takes on an oppressive reality – it shows the dehumanization in the most private sphere.
Personally, I consciously don’t watch porn because I don’t want these images of emotionless intimacy in my head cinema. Every day, porn is clicked millions of times on the Internet, what we see here is a fraction of it. Director Yana Ross (48) is holding up the mirror of our cultural psyche to us. For her, theater is a form of therapy, and pornography is on the couch this evening. “Sex is mild compared to what Wallace said!” She says. Incidentally, anyone who was happy to enjoy one sex performance after the other will be disappointed. Live sex is limited to the first ten minutes.
The texts of the American writer David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) are a collection of male voices; a lot is about sex and the fear of women, which leads to everyday sexism and sexualised violence. Wallace, who suffered from depression and committed suicide, also describes this male view on his own initiative, relentlessly, directly and yet with humor. The director stages the play as a journey through time with a group of cowboys in pastel colors – the ensemble also includes the Bernese actor Michael Neuenschwander (59), known from the SRF series «Wilder».
The interaction between the classic actors and the porn actors goes like clockwork. Katie Pears has her first appearance after a quarter of an hour – with text! If she resembles the cliché of an erotic actress with her smoothly ironed hair and tattoos, her presence, this clear voice and total self-confidence surprises. She teaches the cowboys a lesson in female pleasure. Everyone is given a peach to practice giving oral pleasure to a woman. And actor Conny Dachs also mingles with the ensemble, sings and plays like one of them – there are encounters at eye level.
A highlight is the parody of the show “Sternstunde”, which discusses “What women really want”: revealing and with absurd humor, the chauvinistic cowboys are finally “shot” by the presenter with a hairdryer – then they ride Women with relish on the back of a stuffed bison.
There is nothing more to laugh about than repeatedly reciting the text about the rape of a young woman. Wallace’s words are brutal, it feels like the whole hall is holding its breath. This is difficult to digest food. So difficult that now a spectator leaves the hall. Incidentally, my very personal enthusiasm belongs to Katie Pears. The erotic actress taught me a lesson too, in terms of prejudice: I want to see and, above all, hear more from her.”



“Can a porn actor have cellulite on his buttocks? Is there a maximum breast weight that a sex worker can still carry? And, are you even allowed to ask yourself that? Because you don’t wallow these thoughts in a porn cinema, in some so-called dirty corner that would be easy to visit not far from the shipbuilding. You don’t brood about such things in one of the city’s “execution boxes”, around the corner, so to speak, where sex can be officially bought unofficially and boy shooting is the order of the day.
On the contrary, they bought a ticket for the noble high culture and want to see the work of the in-house director Yana Ross in the shipbuilding hall in Zurich: “Short interviews with nasty men”, based on the novel by David Foster Wallace. The theater had already warned its clientele before the premiere. Young people under the age of 18 were excluded from the premiere. As part of the staging, according to the organizers, a sex worker and a porn actor would not only perform “life sex”, but (if possible) carry it out in real life.
And for a simple reason: In the novel, Wallace describes fictional interviews with men about their tricks and games to lay women down. Because the worst, the most devastating, the most wretched dehumanization, according to the author – and no relevant empirical value and no related advice center will contradict this – takes place in private.
As a spectator, you sit in front of the copulating couple (with stage names Conny Dachs and Katie Pears) who do what they were supposed to do behind glass – and first register the imperfections of their bodies. It is not the nudity itself that seems to be the scandal here; it appears offensive and the act appears because it is performed by unadorned bodies.
As if we didn’t know, this is where you are reminded. Hollywood serves us the trained and operated, the perfectly made-up and perfectly illuminated naked, and even that is digitally post-processed. Here, however, the affront lies in watching everyday people doing everyday things. Nothing about it is radical, just banal. It is also interesting: the forced constellation turns the viewer into a voyeur – a participant and co-responsible for what is happening. Can contemporary theater make the role of the spectator clearer?
In any case, the couple who were arguing next to me about exactly where the male part is looking – at what is happening on the stage or at the mechanically copulating couple – without question saved themselves an hour with the marriage counselor.
Does sex belong on the stage? Do naked bodies belong on display? The debate is old. And that she is so old that she now has a beard, because she is a double-moral one, proved at the weekend with no ifs or buts. We live in a sexualized society, (historical) paintings of naked women are worth millions, and the Vatican can only afford advertising without sex. The theater as a laboratory for alternative schools of thought and attitudes, also as a shelter, is the ideal place to invite your (voluntary) audience to take a look. Especially when in the setting the executor is not the ensemble required by a director, but professionals in their field.
What Yana Ross and a dazzling ensemble with furor and playfulness and gender swap in their cowboy grotesque about male (violence) fantasies – not only concerning women – brought to the boards is simply convincing. It is devilishly intelligent and implemented in a heart-rending, human-loving way. And, in terms of content, it is brushed up with Swiss references (to court judgments and criminal justice processes). Every single one of these sad male monsters – played by women as well – is worth a date – as part of an escorted courtyard walk, of course.
Because they are all screwed up, misogynistic, damaged, just like a large part of humanity. Ilknur Bahadir as Virgin Mary with a knitting vagina, Urs Peter Halter as a divorce winner, Michael Neuenschwander as a senile misogynist who laughs at their parents’ abuse of power by infants, Lena Schwarz as a horny “Arena” presenter. Yana Ross managed acting theater from the brightest. She has converted the premonition of a scandal, which is carelessly decried as a blood and testicular theater, into a lesson in humanity. Those involved rightly deserved the standing ovations at the weekend. And note: an unclothed woman with silicone breasts can look more clothed than a clothed woman with natural breasts.”



“The Schauspielhaus Zürich is showing an explosive new production of “Short Interviews with Nasty Men” based on David Foster Wallace. Director Yana Ross sees Wallace’s preoccupation with pornography in the book in good hands, especially in the theater.
In his book “Brief Interviews with Nasty Men”, the American writer David Foster Wallace had men tell in relentless clarity about their mostly toxic relationships with women, about sex fantasies and obsession with power, but also about loneliness, depression and self-disgust.
A new production of the material directed by Yana Ross can now be seen at the Schauspielhaus Zürich. The house clearly warns of verbal violence and live sex on stage and only allows people of legal age to enter. It is also possible to leave the performance at any time.
The book has accompanied her for a long time and simmered to herself, says director Yana Ross. “At the Schauspielhaus Zurich we now had the feeling that the material could be suitable to look at the tectonic shifts in our society through the dense language of a great thinker like David Foster Wallace.”
The core of the material is the human inability to communicate. “It’s about that feeling of paralysis when you have a great desire but you realize that something is broken and you can’t connect with another person because of it. There is great loneliness in it at a time when everything has become so incredibly loud and noisy, ”says Ross.
She sees no danger of simply reproducing toxic masculinity on stage in the explicit access to the topic – with verbal, emotional and sometimes also physical violence against women.
“On the level of art, I should have the ability to distance myself and the ability to critically examine. It gives us the chance to explore the taboos and dark sides of our society, but in a very safe and amicable way. “
Researching this piece led to the conclusion that Wallace’s book can also be read as a radical feminist perspective, according to Ross. “Nevertheless, we are very careful with this production to issue a content warning that is also openly communicated everywhere.” It is not about surprising or shocking someone, but about the agreement among adults that there is theater here.
Wallace writes very explicitly about intimacy, loneliness and the broken male psyche and sexuality. “It becomes a kind of literary porn for him. The experience of reading the book is similar to that of watching pornography. It’s fascinating and repulsive at the same time. And for me, live sex on stage was an honest way of preparing the audience for this literary porn, this ‘mind fuck’. Because it is actually much more disturbing than the sex itself. “
Ross sees pornography as a “phenomenal tool to describe our social presence”. Pornography almost mirrors society and there is a lot of overlap. “Think of the porn directors who are now making music videos or the rap stars who are now running their own adult entertainment channels. And it actually bothers me that we don’t want to look at it more analytically. “
The theater in particular is a suitable and safe place for this. “Our collaboration was strongly shaped by the work of our intimacy coach. With her, we always had someone in the background who knew how to de-sexualise our language and who could help us with it. At the same time, the relaxation and naturalness with which the two porn actors acted was very inspiring for us. They have a clear understanding of what they can do on stage and what we shouldn’t be doing. And vice versa.””

Deutschlandfunk Radio


“When the man’s soul is fermenting, it releases toxic fantasies. In contrast, pornographic contortions seem harmless
Live sex in the Zurich Schauspielhaus may provoke some irritation. But in “Interview with nasty men – 22 types of loneliness” he only forms the backdrop for the dull monologues of instinct-driven contemporaries.
To get straight to the point: This production is also about pornography. Porn becomes fleshly concrete here, even before the piece has even started. The way to the stands leads across the stage. As a viewer, you don’t feel welcome here per se, and the scenery also has the impression of an uncomfortable crime scene. Cowboys are lying around, dead or asleep. A naked person and a naked person move in a glass compartment. You blink in – aha, they really do – and move on.
If you then look down on the stage from the stands, you can see simple architecture including the pool and roof terrace. There is still copulation in the glazed cabin, business-like, professional, so to speak. It is uncomfortable to be absorbed as a viewer of the scene. But in the theater, porn probably automatically turns into art?

Watch out, sex!

The program for “Interview with nasty men – 22 types of loneliness” warns against live sex. It is expressly stated that you can leave the performance again. Isn’t that always the case? One could almost think that the theater is excited about the potential scandal.
However, Yana Ross, who staged “Interview with Nasty Men” based on texts by the American writer David Foster Wallace, will be aware of the callousness and serenity of the contemporary theater audience. The fact that she integrates a porn couple into the playhouse production serves as a provocation and promotion. But this also creates a lush, dirty atmosphere in which the “nasty men” actually fit in perfectly.
David Foster Wallace only recorded the answers in his «interviews», the questions have to be reconstructed in retrospect. As a result, monologues are also interpreted on stage. In the long, sometimes manic recitatives of the seven cowboys and cowgirls, you get to know the suffering of men who are no longer capable of love and passion. Drive-controlled and phallically directed, they are fixated on copulating, which cannot really succeed without feeling. Their speeches become all the more absurd and aggressive. And sometimes the frustration is dissipated in aggression.”

Ueli Bernays, NZZ


“BZ plus Yana Ross directs David Foster Wallace’s “Short Interviews with Nasty Men” at the Schauspielhaus Zürich – not entirely suitable for young people. Cowboys alone with their manhood.

As far as we could see, nobody went straight home. The audience, only admitted from the age of 18, has to pass a copulating couple in Zurich’s Schiffbau in order to get to their seats. You can’t not look. Out in, out in, legs apart, the woman on a chair, the man standing in front of it – like in a porn show. But we’re not on a porn show. We are in the theater, in a premiere by the American-Lithuanian director Yana Ross. The couple who perform the sexual act with the greatest objectivity, however, come from the industry. Katie Pears and Conny Dachs have been active as porn actors for decades. What are you doing there in high culture?

This question leads to the core of Yana Ross’ staging of “Short Interviews with Nasty Men” by David Foster Wallace, the genius of American literature of the 90s and 2000s, author of the cult novel “Infinite Fun”, on which the translator Ulrich Blumbach takes ten Tennis player and author who – as the program booklet puts it, not without (involuntary) cynicism – “succeeded” in suicide in 2008, at the age of 48. Wallace, an intellectual genius, had to fight the most severe depression throughout his life. His stories “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” were published in the USA in 1999, and in 2002 in German translation.

So now, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 – she witnessed the attack up close – the fearless Yana Ross dared to bring the “nasty” – today they are called toxic – men on stage. Men who give information in fictional interviews about their sexual experiences, about their helplessness towards women, which turns into violence, men who swarm so as not to have to admit to themselves how lonely they are. Ross’ costume designer Zane Philstrom has the men in pastel colored cowboy costumes – pink and light turquoise! – Tucked in huge hats and pointed boots: they are the most ridiculous parodies of Western myth that one can imagine. And when they slip into coarse-checked shirts, Swiss manhood peeps out of them at the same time. Fits to,

Foster Wallace’s texts are heterogeneous, chattered, crystal clear, astute and direct without taboos. You burst with wit and suddenly plunge into the abyss of unrealistic knowledge. They are not considerate. Yana Ross makes them speak, which works without any problems because they are designed to be dialogical. The glazed white bungalow with a roof play area and a rising semicircular spectator stand, which Karolien De Schepper and Christophe Engels have placed in the middle of the shipbuilding, holds the “short interviews” together: the episodes play sometimes above, sometimes below, sometimes the webcam follows them In a closed room, sometimes you can see what is going on in the glazed booth in which the porn people do their job.

Katie Pears occasionally mingles with the fabulous ensemble of four (Ilknur Bahadir, Urs Peter Halter, Michael Neuenschwander, Lena Schwarz) and gives tips for improved sexual practice – the perfect coitus, the perfect kiss – but the two groups of actors don’t really grow together . This is best shown towards the end, when Katie Pears strips down in front of two uptight Swiss people.

You never know whether to laugh or be concerned

Scandal? Nope. Rather, there is a certain perplexity. Sure: In pornography, body and feeling are decoupled, sex is traded as a commodity. And of course: The men at David Foster Wallace are unable to relate and treat women as objects – also out of ignorance of what women want. There is a great terrible silence between the sexes in these texts, which is only delivered with psychoanalytic discourses – as in the wonderful scene in which three men are extremely elaborate about feminism, while Lena Schwarz writhes in erotic flushes.

In the course of the two non-stop entertaining hours, you never know whether you should laugh or be concerned, whether it is a grotesque or a tragedy. The seriousness of the situation of toxic masculinity comes to a head towards the end – in that scene in which the Holocaust is short-circuited with gang rape. Neuenschwander dances and bobs with his cowboy boots, probably to take the weight off the sentences. The core method of fascist rule is being negotiated: taking people away from being human, making them an object with which one can do anything, including torturing and killing them.

David Foster Wallace refers to the experiences of the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in the concentration camp. How can a person manage to evade becoming material? And can there be any benefit for his personality from this? Who knows hell can grow from it? Can this apply to a woman who is a victim of mass rape? At that point one feels quite uncomfortable. This feeling persists when Neuenschwander finally appears as a helpless, diapered old man: here as a bundle of misery, as something reduced to the excretions. Is that what remains of the human being? So Yana Ross’ playful staging ends in absolute blues. Perhaps it can best be understood as an offer for discussion; In three accompanying events, the Schauspielhaus Zürich offers the opportunity to reflect on toxic masculinity, empathy with the victims of sexual violence, the design of other role models and non-violent communication. But art cannot be reduced to socio-political discourses.”

Bettina Schulte


“Sex sells. Even in the theater. And now in Zwinglian Zurich. In shipbuilding, which is used as a second theater by the Zurich Schauspielhaus. The productions here often have an experimental character, while the main building “Pfauen” offers more classic, less provocative theater.

But who else does sex provoke? Yana Ross, director of the short story collection “Short interviews with nasty men. 22 Kinds of Solitude ”according to David Foster Wallace, sends professional porn stars onto the stage. Katie Pears and Conny Dachs then do what they usually do in front of the camera: sex. Live sex. In Zurich for 25 seconds according to the script. Or short. An average quickie, that is, spontaneous, quick sex, lasts three long minutes. This is what it says in the sex column of a respected Süddeutsche Zeitung.

In-house director Ross felt she had to open the play with the physicality of a sexual act in order to prepare the audience for whatever comes after. How concerned. “The performance contains content for adults and is only permitted for viewers aged 18 and over,” says the theater. No photos may be taken during the performance. And if you are fed up with the action after 25 seconds, you can leave the hall.

To ensure that everything really goes right – during sex in the glass cage, Dachs stands visibly, but joyless his husband – the theater had hired an “intimacy coach”. In this function, Karin Sbestow accompanied the production, which is a novelty within the Swiss theater landscape. Yes, the German-speaking theater is changing: questions about power and abuse of power reach the public beyond the borders of theTheater bubble out.

But what comes after the supposed-

a quickie? Verbal eroticism. And nothing that you haven’t seen or heard on ARD or ZDF after 10 p.m. “This is how you lick a pussy,” explains Katie, wearing a cowboy look and holding a peach, smiling at the audience. In another scene she lectures on the best practice in anal sex, wishes “have fun trying it out”, in a third she strips. Well, she tries.

Verbal violence that has been warned about? It can get worse. When one of the guys (Michael Neuenschwander) prances to monologue about the consequences of mass rape; if in the act of violence with Viktor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust, he finds beginnings that such an experience could have an interesting downside, namely an existential experience of the most extreme kind; if he intensifies this thinking in the sentence: “What does not kill you makes you stronger”, then it becomes in the shipbuilding style. The hard-breathing dancer knows what it’s all about, power. And reasoned: “If you manage to see someone else merely as an object, then you can do anything with them, all barriers are lifted.” Eichmann would have agreed.

Later a woman (Lena Schwarz) quotes from a court judgment,

which caused protests in Switzerland. A sexual offender was certified as having “medium fault” because the victim had sent the wrong signals. The victim is not even in therapy. Switzerland is (almost) everywhere.

The verdict is not in the Wallace interviews, but it fits into this collage. Ross uses the collection as a quarry, takes what she needs. Gentler stories also come into play. A woman (Ilknur Bahadir) talks about her father, who worked as a toilet man in a luxury hotel, then there is laconic talk of the moaning of prostate symptoms, poetic of hissing washbasins. Elsewhere, however, from the sexual abuse of the child by grandpa. Grotesque is the “pool boy” who reports about fear of failure in bed and at the climax obsessively exclaims “Victory for the forces of direct democracy”. Finally, the “nasty man” as an old man, helplessly wrapped in diapers, with the word “bitch” in his mouth, is questionable. Embarrassing, disgusting.

While Wallace develops actions in his novels, in his protocols of underhanded egos actions essentially take place as speech acts. That poses problems for the director. Ross delivers action-packed images that are accompanied by music, but they sometimes seem forced. This includes the wild west scenery including bison as a sex object. A bungalow with a pool (stage Karolien De Schepper / Christophe Engels) is less suitable. In contrast to the original, Ross grants women and miscellaneous people an appearance, which lets the image of the “nasty”, “lonely” man and his toxic relationship with the opposite sex appear in a (still) different light. The evening – a game with an open end and great actors (Urs Peter Halter is still mentioned). Nobody took photos or disrupted the performance; only one elderly lady left the performance prematurely. Much applause at the end.”



“In «Short interviews with nasty men – 22 types of loneliness» by David Foster Wallace, the toxic sexuality of men is discussed. In his book, the American author Wallace let men tell in relentless clarity about their mostly toxic relationships with women, about sex fantasies and obsession with power, but also about loneliness, depression and self-disgust.
In-house director Yana Ross used the material to create a theatrical montage without a linear narrative. The Schauspielhaus warns clearly against verbal violence and live sex on stage and only allows admission of adults. It is also possible to leave the performance at any time, which only a few did on the evening of the premiere.
Ross sees pornography as a “phenomenal tool to describe our social presence”. In her staging she does this with cowboys chatting about their sexual fantasies and being lost in a Bauhaus bungalow with a passage, swimming pool and terrace on the roof. There are also two real porn actors who practice the announced live sex in a glass-enclosed room. The sex tips that the porn woman teaches to the audience placed in the semicircle are amusing. Otherwise a gloomy mood dominates, traumatized characters act who tell their stories without emotion. It gets lighter when the cowboys are armed with angry masks and talk nasty stuff. We refrain from describing individual narrative threads.
The six actors, above all Michael Neuenschwander and Lena Schwarz, strive for a fun and fast-paced game, act with a lot of irony, sometimes biting, sometimes bored. Overall, a two-hour performance is offered, which offers quite a few highlights, but is mostly rather perplexing.”


Premiere September 11, 2021

Director: Yana Ross
Stage: Karolien De Schepper and Christophe Engels
Set and Costume Designer: Zane Pihlstrom
Music: Knut Jensen
Video and Live Camera: Algirdas Gradauskas
Light:Christopher Kunz
Intimacy Coach: Kasia Szustov
Dramaturgy: Laura Paetau
Audience Development: Elsa Horstkoetter
Touring & International Relations: Sonja Hildebrandt
Production assistance: Samuel Petit
Stage Assistant: Anka Bernstetter / Karl Dietrich
Costume Assistant: Mona Eglsoer
Stage manager: Michael Durrer and Aleksandar Sascha Dinevski
Soufflage: Janos Stefan Buchwardt
Surtitle Translation: Sinikka Weber