Arts & Events

Around & About Theater, Music--& John Malkovich: The Infernal Comedy, Friday at Zellerbach

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:17:00 AM

I've been on the road nonstop since 1982," says John Malkovich, speaking of his career for a CNN mini-doc (which can be viewed online—click on "Multimedia" under the photo of Malkovich) ... and comments on his reputation for playing psycho heavies: "they're only talking about four or five films that happened to make hundreds of millions of dollars." 

Malkovich's comments and wry tributes by Glenn Close and Antony Hopkins serve to introduce snippets of his unusual stage project—his first flush of celebrity was in 1980 onstage at the Steppenwolf in Chicago, and Obies for True West and Death of a Salesman—The Infernal Comedy, the true-life story of an Austrian Don Juan and serial killer, starring Malkovich, two operatic sopranos—and the Musica Angelica Baroque Ensemble, this Friday night at Zellerbach Auditorium. 

Playing Jack Unterweger, back from the grave to push his autobiography by reading and acting it out to compositions from Vivaldi and Gluck to Beethoven and von Weber, Malkovich has plenty of opportunity to address the audience, interact with the singers—and improvise, making each performance different. The script was written especially for the show by writer-director Michael Sturminger, of whom Malkovich says "I feel I finally met the person who I should be working with." (Malkovich also serves as co-director.) 

Unterweger was sentenced to life imprisonment in Austria in 1976 for killing a young girl, but his book Purgatory became a best-seller, and he was released as a model prisoner in 1990, only to kill more women—almost a dozen in all—on two continents. 

In the midst of a world tour, stretching from St. Petersburg and Tblisi to Lima and Rio, Malkovich and his team—Sturminger and music director Michael Haselboeck (in Berkeley, the orchestra will be led by guest conductor Adrian Kelly)—have already premiered a new piece, The Giacomo Variations, with Malkovich as Casanova to music by Mozart, touring next year. 

"Such a warm-hearted, reliable man!" enthuses writer-director Sturminger about his star—while Malkovich, rehearsing with a soprano, declares: "She's dead—and miked!" 

Additional information and the script, with compositions to be played, at: 

Friday at 8, Zellerbach Auditorium, Cal Performances—$20-$140. 642-9988;