The Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern is staging two pieces from the canon of the Theatre of the Absurd, both by Polish playwright S?awomir Mro?ek. Out at Sea and Striptease together create a night of theater titled derklöwnschpankeneffekt. Each of the two plays, approximately forty minutes apiece, is quite different. One features three men stuck on a raft far out to sea, and the other features two men (who may or may not be the same man, it's hard to tell) trapped in a room after encountering one another, at the mercy of a giant hand who wants their clothes.
In the first of the two plays, Out at Sea, the three men stranded on a raft, named simply Fat, Medium, and Thin, are out of food and trying to figure out how to decide who to kill and eat. They somehow come to the conclusion that democracy is the way to decide, and there are campaign speeches, constituent demands, and ballots, although it's clear from the start who will be chosen. There is clearly plenty of commentary about campaign politics and voting practices that underline the purposefully unrealistic premise. Absurdist theater leaves the door open for some artistic liberties, like the inclusion of some technology which clearly didn't exist at the time the play was written in 1961. The trio of actors do a fine job of making it seem like what's going on is normal, which seems to be the goal of such a work. Additionally, it features some well-timed sound design and an interesting scenic design concept, which features the raft actually tilting from side to side like a see-saw.
The second play, Striptease, is saturated with the themes of freedom and possibility. These two men (dressed identically, excepting for the belt vs. suspenders preference), somehow run into each other on their life's journeys. Once trapped, a giant hand demands all of their clothes until they are wearing undershirts, boxer shorts, and socks. There's also a dance number and a second hand. While intentions of Striptease are less clear than those of Out at Sea, the two actors, Jay O'Berski and Jeffrey Detwiler keep the energy up and the piece moving forward.
Mro?ek wrote both of these plays in 1961, shortly before leaving Poland. He was a member of the Polish United Workers' Party. This party, which was based on the principles of Marxist communism, was in power in Poland for about four decades. It certainly informs why he would write about such highly political themes, like issues with democracy, personal freedom, government control, etc. For those audience members who are very familiar with the state of politics in Europe in the mid-20th Century, and for those of us who called our history-buff father for some historical context, the plays will provide different yet meaningful experiences. Certainly, the work can stand alone as humorous pieces that are a little strange, or they can be interpreted to find a deeper meaning. Audience's choice.
Little Green Pig's derklöwnschpankeneffekt is playing at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham as a part of Manbites Dog's Other Voices Series, and runs through April 6. For tickets and more information, visit www.littlegreenpig.com or call 919-452-2304.