The new comedy A Polish Play bills itself as a “conflation” of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, but this sophomoric endeavor mainly succeeds in deflating, not conflating, its source material. Set in medieval Warsaw, A Polish Play tells the story of Pére Ubu (Jordan Gelber), who plots to murder the king. His ball-busting wife, Mére Ubu (Dana Smith-Croll), goads him on, but she’s soon overcome with guilt and begins sleepwalking. As the action unfolds, an onstage narrator summarizes each scene while a foley artist creates live sound effects. Shakespeare and Jarry may be the reigning deities, but the spirits of Monty Python and National Lampoon also preside. The play is replete with fart jokes and profanity, and the cast delights in dragging the literary references through the mud. Ubu Roi was first performed in 1896 and borrows heavily from Macbeth, which makes A Polish Play a redundant farce. For a smarter reappropriation of classic texts, you need only go back to Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth. These two playlets (usually performed together) provide twin templates on how to honor a masterpiece and have fun with it too.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2007