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The Party & Out at Sea 

Two cartoons, one a sketch for the editorial page, the other by Warner Bros.

Wednesday, Oct 22 2003
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Slawomir Mrozek is a Polish satirist from the same generation as Stanislaw Lem, the great science-fiction writer. In spite of a long exile in the West (including the United States), Mrozek is almost unknown outside of Poland, and FoolsFury wants to rectify this lapse by staging a pair of his absurdist one-acts, Out at Sea and The Party. Both plays date from the '60s, when Mrozek abandoned the Communist Party and had to leave Poland. Out at Sea is about three starving men on a raft in the ocean, trying to decide which one of them should be eaten. First they try democracy: Each one stands on a trunk to deliver a campaign speech about why he should be spared. (One emphasizes his cooking skills.) Then they compare personal suffering: Two men who are orphans want to eat the one who is not. And so on. The play is witty, perfectly constructed, but a bit dry, though director Ben Yalom adds flavor by asking his actors to pontificate like American country mayors while a bluesy mandolin (played by Doyle Ott) plinks in the background. No such clever vision enlivens The Party, which is about three madcaps in silly wigs and torn party coats trying to answer the burning question, "Is there gonna be a party? Or isn't there?" In Mrozek's hands this question has philosophical and even religious resonance, and in Communist Poland, of course, "party" had political meaning, but director Rod Hipskind can't make the play matter. It's more static than Out at Sea, and less interesting. Both plays are essentially cartoons, but The Party is a sketch for the editorial page, while Out at Sea flows like something by Warner Bros.

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