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Made in Poland

This seriously nutty dramatic comedy about life in modern-day Poland is compelling.

Karen Young, Kit Williamson, and Natalia Zvereva
in Made in Poland
(© Carol Rosegg)
59E59 Theaters continues to be the place to discover the great theater being done in different cities, countries, and cultures outside of our own, as evidenced by Made in Poland, the seriously nutty dramatic comedy by the Polish filmmaker and playwright Przemyslaw Wojcieszek produced by The Play Company and directed with stylish speed by Jackson Gay.

Referencing with humor everything from Catcher in the Rye to Children of the Corn, the work is a coming-of-age story that might seem on the surface to be more than a little derivative. But both the goofy tone and the outlandish conduct of the characters mark this play as both distinctly original, as well as sometimes jarringly over the top.

The protagonist, Bogus (Kit Williamson, far too extreme for the role), is a young man so mad at the world around him that he not only rants and raves constantly, but has a bad habit of doing damage to parked cars. Not only has he taken a metal rod to his priest's car, he has also done significant harm to a Lincoln Town Car owned by a local gangster, Fazi (Jayce Bartok), and he and his two comic sidekicks (played by Ryan O'Nan and Eva Kaminsky, both dry and winning) go after Bogus to collect the debt.

While Bogus claims he's a revolutionary, he's simply a lost soul in search of an identity. His two role models -- a drunken ex-teacher (a very effective Rob Campbell) and a patient man of the cloth (Ed Vassallo, showing strength and dignity -- each try to help the poor boy. But it just might be love is the answer, in the form of a young blonde named Monika (Natalia Zvereva). Do not be misled, though, into thinking this is a love story. It's really a political play about the nature of modern society in which politics and religion may ultimately mean less in the lives of real people than their common bonds of popular culture.

Indeed, in ways both funny and poignant, a thread runs through the play about the shared love that all of these characters have for the real-life famous Polish pop star Krzysztof Krawczyk. (Posters of Krawczyk figure prominently in the show's set design by Ola Maslik and his music is integral to the show's sound design by Bart Fasbender.) It's no small thing that Bogus' mother, adroitly played by Karen Young, is as much a Krawczyk fan as Fazi.

The play is fresh and engagingly complex, if not always believable. For instance, one scene involves young Bogus buying a dress for Monika. Clearly, a female playwright would know that a young, incredibly naïve boy would not be able to buy a gown for his girlfriend that instantly fits right out of the box. It would have helped if Gay had actually instructed costume designer Jessica Ford to come up with a gown that that didn't fit so well and to have given Monika sneakers with the gown instead of purple glitter shoes. There might have been more comic mileage to be had, along with considerably more verisimilitude. Still, its flaws aside, Made in Poland is a compelling comic portrait of one man's vision of his people and their passions.