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A CurtainUp Review
3 Kinds of Exile
By Elyse Sommer
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.