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A CurtainUp Review
3 Kinds of Exile

" I tell you this story to ask you how much of your life have you made up? How many people do you carry around in your life who are inventions of your fear?” —Karel, the narrator of the first of John Guare's triptych about the effect of being emigrating from the place of one's birth to the immigrant experience.
John Guare
John Guare
Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia
The monologue which raises the curtain on John Guare's exploration of three Eastern Europeans' immigrant experiences is less a play than an anecdote. Martin Moran is a fine anecdotist. The same is true for the playwright-turned actor John Guare and Omar Sangare in the dualogue that follows.

Though Mr. Guare does tie each piece to his title, the pleasures and effectiveness of its parts don't really add up to a truly satisfying whole. The curtain raiser about a man who was sent to safety from the Nazis with the Kindertransport but never saw his family again is well told and ends with a nifty O.Henry twist. Guare and Sangare alternate in recollections (both knew her quite well, making this an affection tribute) about the Polish actress Elzbieta whose career became a bad luck story after she immigrated to the US when she married American journalist David Halberstam in the 1960s because of her heavy accent.

Czyzewska's story is fascinating and the celebrity names dropped into the fext are fun. It's made more theatrical and visually interesting thanks to having it more like a conversation thanks to its being told by two people and Dustin O'Neill's projections. However, it does go on a bit too long.

Despite Neil Pepe's more visually interesting staging for the Guare-Sangare collaboration, it is basically structured to be pretty much of a piece with Moran's "Korel." That structural unity disappears with the drop of the curtain that initially serves as a wall around the playing area for "Funeage." which is not just another anecdotal look at a displaced Eastern European. With a substantial ensemble, costumes, and movement choreography (Christopher Bayes) and original music (Josh Schmidt), this is more of a play than what ent before.

Initially "Funeage" promises to top things off with a Wow!. Unfortunately, this is not a case of last but not last, but instead more of a last but decidedly least.

Given that Guare's plays are often imbued with more than a touch of absurdism, it's understandable that he would be drawn to novelist-playwright-diarist Witold Gombrowicz's exile story. "Funeage" thus shows Gombrowicz (David Pittus) finding himself stranded in Argentina during the outbreak of the second World War and ultimately remaining there. In tribute to the writer's absurdist style, Guare has fashioned the story of his exile into a vaudeville-like fantasia.

Pittu is terrific as the trapped into unwanted heroism main man, and so is the entire ensemble. But admirable as the staging and performances are, most theater goers won't know enough about Gombrowicz to appreciate Guare's tip of the hat to his style. Thus even the excellent staging and performances can't keep this ambitious and at first promising finale from soon feeling like a never-ending Polish joke.

3 Kinds of Exile ("Karel". . ."Elzbieta Erased. . ."Funeage")
Playwright: John Guare
Director: Neil Pepe
Cast: Alison Cimmet (Damsel 2/Ensemble), John Guare (A), Jeffrey Kuhn (Critic 1/Ensemble), Jacquelyn Landgraf (Damsel 1/Ensemble), Peter Maloney (Father/Captain), Martin Moran (Actor/Hymn Singer), David Pittu (Witold Gombrowicz), Kate Rigg (Critic 2/Ensemble), Omar Sangare (B/Gonzalo) and Timothy Splain (Pianist).
Scenic design by Takeshi Kata
ostume design by Susan Hilferty
Lighting by Donald Holder
Original music and sound design by Josh Schmidt
Movement Choreography by Christopher Bayes
Stage Manager: Alison DeSantis
Running Time: 1 Hour and 40 minutes
Atlantic Theater Company Mainstage at the Linda Gross Theater 336 West 20th Street
From 5/15/13; opening 6/11/13; closing 6/23/13
Wednesday-Satu Crday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm, Sunday at 3pm, Tuesday and Sunday at 7pm.
All tickets are $70; $30 Atlantic Members; For every performance (except Friday and Saturday evenings) of Atlantic Theater Company Mainstage productions, Atlantic offers 15 seats for only $15. Seats are limited to rows in the back of the theater, and availability may vary per performance
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at June 13th performance.
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