In Poland in 1890, in a Chekhovian-like setting, there are charming scenes of two young girls sharing a bedroom and giddily exchanging information about sex learned from dusty tomes and vivid rumors. One of them is betrothed to marry an innocent youth but she is bedeviled by fears and fantasies of huge penises. Until the girl was ten, her mother raised her in all appearances as a boy and even her own father was unaware of the switch. Apparently this created an alarming neuroses in the young girl and, either in her search for a penis of her own, or in fear of the dreadful pulsing things, she retreats into hysteria. As well she might.
Because in fact, the action of the play is inundated with a multitude of penises roaring out of unzipped flies, posing as innocent vegetables, appearing as noses, and even dangling from trees. Her own father pants after a large domestic servant, who at first registers disgust, but soon seems to enjoy the chase and apparently the catch. Then, as a rutting male, often wearing a boar’s head, he chases half naked wenches. Even grandpa is obsessed with his flagging member and uses an innocent family member to discharge his horniness. Only through this torrent of phalluses does the story gradually emerge.
Wonderful performances by a stellar cast, and picturesquely fast-paced direction by Ron Sossi, could not camouflage the plays obsession with more than theatrical revelation. I think even Freud would probably shake his head in wonderment over the degree of genital obsession in this play. Written by Tadeusz Różewicz, known as one of Poland's greatest contemporary writers, in 1975 when Poland was still under Communist rule, it has been called a "tragic farce."
Also reviewed in the May issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY