"Tango," Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek’s dense drama about a bohemian family of artists for whom conformity is criminal, directed by third-year Brown/Trinity Rep MFA student Shana Gozansky, is a showcase of commanding performances and serves as a lesson in politics, philosophy, and self-identity.
Mrozek spent his early career as a journalist and began writing plays in 1950. "Tango," a portrait of totalitarianism, introduces a commune-like household of proud, unapologetic underachievers, seemingly content to live unashamedly in squalor and without rules of civility.
Arthur (Will Austin), the college-educated black sheep of his family, wages a war of words with his father, the infantile Stomil (Tommy Dickie), who stands idly by while his boozy wife, Eleonora (Ruth Coughlin), openly engages in an affair with Eddie (Charlie Thurston), their smarmy house guest.
As much as Arthur loathes his surroundings, he remains imprisoned by his love for his cousin, Ala (Alexandra Lawrence), and garners the trust and support of his uncle, Eugene (Ricky Oliver). Lost in the shuffle yet eerily alert is Arthur’s frail grandmother, Eugenia (Mary C. Davis).
After Arthur proposes to Ala, who reluctantly accepts, he resorts to extreme, absurd measures to ensure their unity resembles a traditional marriage ceremony. Let it suffice to say things don’t exactly go according to plan and the tragic outcome is darkly comic.
I applaud Gozansky for having dared to direct this challenging work, which is certainly intriguing yet overly preachy and occasionally dry. Source material aside, the cast members deliver remarkable performances, with Austin and Oliver especially impressive.
The non-traditional set design (including a coffin and other assorted items) coupled with costumes that are deliberately disturbing are distracting yet undeniably creative.
"Tango" concluded its run on May 13 at the Pell Chafee Performance Center, 87 Empire Street, Providence. For more information on future productions, visit Trinity Rep’s website.