According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Polish Play

(Chosen as one of The New Theater Corps'
FIVE FAVORITES for 2/2/07)
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

"By my green syphilitic penis!" roars Pere Ubu between massive tremolos of flatulence. This foolish, rotund slob, played to the hilt by Jordan Gelber, is from Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, but the play he's appearing in at the moment seems to be Macbeth. In fact, it is: here come the three Weird Sisters, cackling from atop a cauldron, setting his fate and Banquo's in stone. His wife may go by the name Mere Ubu (a clucking Dana Smith-Croll), but she's really the vicious Lady Macbeth, out-damn-spot and all. Instead of Duncan, they scheme to kill good king Wenceslas (and with a shitter hook, not a knife), and when Macduff comes for his just revenge, our "hero" bangs once on his toilet-seat armor, again on his pot-lid helmet, and then flees to France. It's a mash-up, designed to present Macbeth as a comedy, and as a means to give the adapter, Henry Wishcamper, free license to mess around with the theater, too.

Sound effects are provided by our friendly neighborhood Foley Artist (James Bentley), just off to stage left, and props, costumes, set pieces, and technical instructions for the many scene changes litter the walls. The Walkerspace stage has been hollowed to reveal every device being used, and the cast takes pleasure in mocking their own bad accents or flubbed cues. There are, of course, puppets, both of the slaughtered and performing variety, and the Tetris-like assembly of the set does as much for the play's constant physical comedy as do the shit-flinging sight-gags. (Literally.) The cast is in good form too, with gender-reversed actors like Eunice Wong and Jeff Biehl (Bougrelas and Queen Rosamond, respectively) serving up equal parts of ham and cheese.

At the preview performance I attended (1/14), there were still some rough spots, but not enough to detract from the overwhelming good humor of the piece. Though most of the musical numbers fall flat (including an homage to Rocky), there's enough variety to compensate for it (save for a slump after intermission), and though Mr. Gelber wears a fat suit, he's fit as a fiddle for comedy.

Beware the shitter hook or laugh at it, but if you're looking for a wacky riff on Macbeth, go see The Polish Play.

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