History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/East European Post-WWII

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Of notable interest in the East European theatre after WWII is the Polish playwright Sławomir Mrożek (1930-?) and his family saga, "Tango" (1964).

Slawomir Mrozek describes a young man who resents his father's liberal views, 2006


"Tango". Time: 1960s. Place: Poland.

Tango dance maneuver

Arthur is angry at seeing his great-uncle, Eugene, play cards instead of writing his memoirs. To punish him, he places a bird-cage over his head. He also commands his grandmother, Eugenia, to lie inside a coffin with lit candles beside it. Arthur next scolds his father, Stomil, for walking about with his pajama bottom improperly buttoned up, but he ignores him. The father reminds him it is thanks to his generation that he is so free, but Arthur regrets such freedom, "in this brothel where nothing works because everyone can do whatever he pleases". But to Stomil, "every man is entitled to his own kind of happiness". Arthur continues to speak of this theme to Eugene. "Don't you realize that, precisely because everything is possible, nothing is possible anymore?" he asks. The loss of tradition and convention have made revolt impossible. Considering himself an artist, Stomil presents to the family a puppet-play on Adam and Eve. After a few exchanges, the lights go out and a gun-shot is heard, with the result that he is the only one amused. Arthur challenges his father by announcing that a supposed friend of the family, Eddie, sleeps with his wife, Eleanor. But after Stomil proposes to shoot him, Arthur discovers his father playing cards with both. Having failed to do anything with his father, Arthur next attempts to turn the clock back by convincing Ala to marry him. She hesitates but finally accepts. When he asks for Eugenia's blessing, she hesitates. Glad of this turn of events, her brother, Eugene, threatens to shoot her unless she does. She finally yields. On the wedding day, there is a newly discovered order in the household, though Stomil remains doubtful of whther it can bed maintained. "Formalism will never free you from chaos," he prophesies to Eugene. Eleanor is also glad of this turn of events, still enthusiastic about Eddie acting as both her servant and her lover. But at the last moment, Arthur no longer wants to go through with the ceremony, empty of any meaning, still looking for an idea to build an entire life on. A sick Eugenia enters the coffin a second time, but this time to die. This gives Arthur the idea that death is the best idea of all. He begins by condemning Eugene to death and is about to enforce it when Eddie kills him from behind. In view of the family's weakness to decide on anything, it is now Eddie's turn to command. To celebrate the coming of a new family order based on old traditions, he dances a tango with Eugene.