The Trap Door Theatre has always had a minor obsession with Polish avant-garde playwright Stanislaw Witkiewicz. When the company opened its doors in 1994, its first production was Witkiewicz's best-known work, The Madman and the Nun. It was an evening held together more with spit and determination than artistry, but by the time Trap Door attempted Witkiewicz's grotesque, incestuous drawing-room comedy The Mother in 1998, they'd begun to find the stylistic consistency within the playwright's ferociously disjointed fantasy. And with their third bash at Witkiewicz a year ago--the menacing and hallucinogenic The Crazy Locomotive--they came as close to making sense of the playwright's work as most companies ever will; now it's being remounted at the Chicago Cultural Center as an adjunct to its exhibit of Polish art, "In Between: Art From Poland, 1945-2000." The play is set in the engine room of a passenger train, where a band of cultural assassins have taken over the controls, planning to crash the locomotive into an oncoming train, apparently to bring on Judgment Day. Director Andrew Krukowski, a Polish native, has a strong affinity for Witkiewicz's fractured poetry and vicious imagery, lending a certain grace to this deranged escapade. It may not be a pleasant production--Witkiewicz was too antibourgeois to make pleasure a goal--but it's an exhilarating ride for those with a taste for ambiguity and madness. Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630 or TTY 312-744-2947. Opens Sunday, February 4, 5 PM. Through February 18: Sundays, 5 PM; Wednesday, February 7, 7 PM; Tuesday, February 13, 7 PM. Free.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Pasquale DeFazio.