Nicole Wiesner directs Sławomir Mrożek’s loopy 1959 send-up of Eastern bloc life. All the put-upon Mr. Ohey—Dennis Bisto in a snarling standout turn—wants to do is read his newspaper. But an avalanche of quotidian and not-so-quotidian circumstances conspire to make this impossible. Mrs. Ohey—portrayed gracefully, which is quite a feat considering what’s being thrown at her, by Venice Averyheart—just wants a little attention from him, or whoever else may come along. When they are told that there’s a tiger living in their bathroom, all hell breaks loose, as one might expect. Their tiny apartment becomes a staging area for science experiments, circus tours, impromptu trysts, even a big-game hunt by a visiting dignitary.
The Martyrdom of Peter Ohey
Through 3/26: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, trapdoortheatre.com, $25 (two for one Thu).
This show is like a tightly-wound top that spins frantically through slapstick, vaudeville, and camp without ever overstaying in one mode or the other. With its frenetic pace, the few quiet moments—like a sweet silent dance by a silhouetted Mr. and Mrs. Ohey—are a welcome respite.
Mrożek undoubtedly meant his play to be a commentary on the non sequitur nature of daily life on the chilly side of the Iron Curtain, but watching it in 2021, I couldn’t help but think about all the unwanted guests we willingly invite into our homes via screens and other devices. The cacophonous environment at the Oheys’ is not unlike what many people today consider entertainment. Whether by choice or directive from above, the intrusion of business and government into family life is an evergreen motif. By updating a 60-year-old play with enough current references to make the opening-night audience I saw it with howl with laughter, the Trap Door has put their nonpareil stamp on yet another vital yet little-known piece of theater. They make sure that, though we never see that bathroom tiger, we know it’s there.