Theater

Theater

by

In Striptease, two men, business-suited and briefcased, discover themselves in a barren cell. Each had been hurrying along when a mysterious force threw him to the ground and transported him there. After bickering about a proposed course of action, one resolves to sit quietly, while the other man begins banging on the walls with one of his shoes. Suddenly a gigantic four-fingered hand appears, apparently demanding the shoe. “Ah,” says the man pleasantly, surrendering the footwear, “something new again.” Actually, there’s little new in Polish author Slawomir Mrozek’s pair of one-acts, Out at Sea and Striptease. Written in the early ’60s, they appear classic examples of absurdist drama. Both concern men trapped physically by circumstance and psychically by outlook. Political allegory flows freely—indeed, considering the blatant discussions of freedom and democracy, the plays may be too overt for allegory. If the existentialist dilemmas offer no novelty, the plays are at least directed and acted with freshness. Mrozek lends a welcome particularity to his figures. Rather than Beckett’s tramps or Ionesco’s giddy bourgeois, these are indelibly bureaucrats and businessmen—even when given the opportunity to escape their prison, they can’t leave their briefcases behind.