The Pragmatists is an early attempt by Polish polymath Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz - an eccentric avant-garde genius who made his mark in the fields of painting, philosophy, photography, theatre, and drug use - to bring to life his theatrical theory of Pure Form, in which a work's
formal elements take aesthetic precedence over its narrative content. The narrative content in this case concerns an existential conflict between
two former friends: the weak, passive recluse Plasfodor Mimecker and the
confident, bombastic Minister of Poisons Graf Franz von Telek. When von
Telek intrudes on Plasfodor's cloistered parlor to recruit him for a bizarre
world domination scheme, the two men use the women surrounding them as
weapons in their struggle: Plasfodor's mute wife Mammalia, his androgynous
maid Masculette, and a mysterious Chinese Mummy in the employ of von Telek. These women, no mere objects, control the action just as much as, if not more than, the play's ostensible protagonists, and life grows increasingly
difficult for everyone involved.
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