Production / 3sat-recording
The 10 Selected Productions


by Anna Gmeyner

Burgtheater (Vienna)

Premiere 30 October 2020

Barbara Frey and the Vienna Burgtheater’s acting company have created a wonderfully tragicomic evening of theatre that puts the rarely performed author Anna Gmeyner back in the spotlight.

Automatenbüfett. Video trailer

© Burgtheater

  • 2 h
  • In German with German and English subtitles and German audio description

Past Dates

After-show talk and reception in honour of the artists
on 16 May 2021 at 22:05

The provincialist Adam saves the beautiful stranger Eva from suicide by drowning and takes her along to the “Automatenbüfett”, the restaurant owned by his feisty wife. Eva’s arrival is an attraction to this largely male community and the shrewd Adam knows how to use it to further his plans. Anna Gmeyner’s characters are struggling desperately for civility but cannot help gradually revealing their own depravity. Martin Zehetgruber has designed the eponymous automat, which provides a looming backdrop to sometimes cringeworthily funny and sometimes heartrendingly sad encounters between the outstanding cast. Once again, director Barbara Frey has proved her talent for precise yet casual suspense – and an intelligent, contemporary look at gender-dependencies.

Theatertreffen-juror Petra Paterno about the production
“Automatenbüfett” is a rediscovery. Author Anna Gmeyner, born in Vienna in 1902, was a literary outsider throughout her life. “Automatenbüfett” would have been more than adequate to establish Gmeyner as a dramatist as early as the 1930s, but since she was a left-wing Jewish playwright, her writing was banned in Nazi-Germany. Gmeyner managed to escape to exile in Britain and never returned to Austria.

Critics like to compare the author to Ödon von Horváth, often to her disadvantage. And yet especially her female characters are tough fighters who will take what’s theirs against all resistance – quite unlike Horváth’s forlorn damsels. At the outset of the play, a young woman called Eva (Katharina Lorenz) is prevented by a certain Mr Adam (Michael Maertens) from taking her own life. From this point on, Eva feels obliged to support Adam in his passionate pursuit of a whimsical project: He wants to breed carp. Not exactly the beginning of a play about female empowerment as we would see it today, but this particular Adam-and-Eve-relationship will shift over the course of the story.

Director Barbara Frey’s production at the Vienna Akademietheater is as laid-back as it is sensitive and manages to avoid the genre-typical allocation of victimhood in this petit bourgeois cabinet of curiosities. The set is an eye-catcher: Martin Zehetgruber has literally hoisted an over-dimensioned automat into the theatre. It spits out sausages and beer at the drop of a coin, and stage musician Tommy Hojsa will also only play for cash.

Frey has committed her company to an artificial movement vocabulary; everything happens with deliberate slowness. It’s not the grand gesture that counts here, but an eye for detail. The director defies simple naturalism; circumstances are portrayed in all their ruthlessness and a cohesive and outstanding ensemble performance conjures them on to the stage. “Automatenbüfett” is subtle and rough-spun, deeply sad and uproariously funny. An entire world on a stage.

Artistic Team

Barbara Frey Director
Martin Zehetgruber Set design
Stephanie Wagner Set design collaboration
Esther Geremus Costume design
Tommy Hojsa, Barbara Frey Music
Friedrich Rom Lighting design
Andreas Karlaganis Dramaturgy

Michael Maertens Adam
Maria Happel Mrs Adam
Katharina Lorenz Eva
Christoph Luser Pankraz / Willibald Boxer
Dörte Lyssewski Puttgam
Annamária Láng Cäcilie / Editor Arendt
Robert Reinagl School Councillor Wittibtöter
Hans Dieter Knebel Pharmacist Hüslein
Daniel Jesch Head Forester Wutlitz
Daniel Jesch / Hans Dieter Knebel / Annamária Láng / Robert Reinagl The Women of the Members of the A.F.V.
Tommy Hojsa Piano

Programme brochure

for download (, 14.3 MB)

First television broadcast of the 3sat-recording
on 29 May 2021 at 20:15