Ordinary life gets a comic and surreal slant in two Polish one-act plays

February 21, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

The comedic aspects of everyday living are observed with surrealistic irony in "Charlie" and "The Party" at the Polish National Alliance hall in Fells Point tonight through Saturday.

A new group, Polonium Theatre, performs both plays in three-quarter round on the floor of the vast auditorium with minimal sets and costumes. But the gifted three-member male cast transcends the limited resources to wonderfully portray a variety of widely different roles to offer outstanding, memorable theater.

The two one-act plays by Slawomir Mrozek, Poland's most popular playwright, can certainly be classified as significant components of the Theater of the Absurd since ordinary situations in Mrozek's fine, philosophical works often come to a darkly bizarre conclusion. He is making the point that only a thin line lies between reality and the dangerous twilight zone of the human mind.

Romona Pula, who earned her B.A. degree in theater arts from Towson State University, adroitly directed both pieces, giving careful attention to every physical movement and vocal nuance. The timing is excellent and the projection of the actors -- Brian P. Chetelat, Ted R. Frankenhauser and Jimi Kinstle -- professionally executed. The audience never has to strain to catch a muffled word.

"Charlie" dwells upon the tyranny of terror. Brute force wins against intellectualism, symbolizing the depths of degradation to which modern society has sunk.

A mean, illiterate old man (Kinstle) brandishing a shotgun and his bullying hillbilly grandson (Chetelat) invade an eye doctor's office looking for the enemy they call Charlie. They have never met Charlie, but Grandpa has waited all his life to find this intangible foe and shoot him (an unfortunate characteristic of the human condition).

The work is broadly funny at first but then turns nasty as the two victimize the poor doctor into submission. Terrified for his life, he offers up a Charlie sacrifice to save his own skin and becomes a prisoner of his own fears.

In the lighter piece, "The Party," the versatile three again display exceptional talent as jaded young men crashing a party. But when they break through the door no one is there. The only traces of activity are a half-pint bottle of liquor and a cabinet mysteriously filled with masks and women's clothes.

Alienation, loneliness and non-communication, qualities common to all mankind, take center stage in "The Party."

In carrying out these themes, this one-act is chock full of absolutely hilarious comedy bits as the bored three torment each other, don the masks and female clothing and raise general hell because there is no party. "Where is the party?" they scream. "Will there be a party?"

Chetelat, as a deliciously sensitive crybaby, declares, "If I can't live it up, I don't want to live." He then pretends to hang himself, a move the others decide should be carried through. After all, a funeral is better than no party at all.

Polonium Theatre is a refreshing wrinkle in local theater. The purpose of the company is to produce plays by Polish and Polish-American playwrights in conjunction with the promotion of Polish art and culture in Baltimore.

"Charlie" and "The Party," both written in 1963, offer engrossing, thought-provoking and highly entertaining theater, not to be missed.

NOTEWORTHY: "The Man on the Mountain," an original play written and directed by Percy Thomas, was presented last week by the Encore Dinner Theatre at the Forum. This well-crafted play about a young runaway and an old man waiting for death featured good performances by Gordon Parks, Chevell Thomas and Edith Hare. Encore, the first African-American dinner theater in the area, showcases works by local and regional black playwrights.

Encore's next production, "Sneakin' Out at the Royal Theatre," by Cherri Cunningham-Cragway, will take a nostalgic look at the past star acts booked into Baltimore's famed Royal Theatre. The musical work will be performed on Wednesdays (only) May 8 to June 12.

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