- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

VIENNA, Austria | Hollywood actor John Malkovich in the role of a serial killer may not raise any eyebrows, but put him on stage with just an orchestra and two sopranos, and you get an unusual piece of theater.

“The Infernal Comedy — Confessions of a Serial Killer,” which opened last week at Vienna’s Ronacher Theater, casts Mr. Malkovich in the role of Jack Unterweger, an Austrian serial killer convicted in 1994 of murdering nine prostitutes.

At an event to publicize his autobiography, Mr. Malkovich as Unterweger rants and raves about women, liars, his editor and the evening’s pitiful organization, regularly interrupted by sopranos Laura Aikin and Aleksandra Zamojska, interpreting arias by Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven or Haydn.

More than a play about his life, the piece is an angered monologue by an egomaniac, a narcissistic Don Juan who adores and at the same time despises women, in turn caressing and strangling his two singing co-stars.

“I’d rather be a killer than a no one,” says Mr. Malkovich’s character, hinting at the motives behind his crimes.

Speaking from beyond the grave — he committed suicide in prison in 1994 — Unterweger teases the audience throughout the almost two-hour piece, promising to reveal his deepest secrets but remorseless until the end.

First jailed in 1974 for murder, Unterweger became a minor celebrity after writing a successful autobiography and several plays in prison, securing his early release and going on to work as a journalist.

He is believed, however, to have committed more murders in the Czech Republic and California and finally was rearrested in Miami.

Created by the Austrian team of Michael Sturminger, Martin Haselboeck and Birgit Hutter, “The Infernal Comedy,” which ran through Sunday, premiered in 2006 in Los Angeles, also with Malkovich in the main role.

Operatic interludes are provided throughout the piece by Miss Aikin and Miss Zamojska, representing the women in Unterweger’s life, from his mother to his lovers and victims.

Interrupting his monologue on another occasion, Mr. Malkovich petulantly orders the orchestra to entertain the audience while he takes a break.

The fragmented result is neither an opera nor a straight play and, performed in English, was an unusual piece for Vienna.

Nevertheless, the final applause made it clear: The main attraction was seeing Mr. Malkovich on stage.

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