September 12, 2013
We've just published Saviana Stanescu's Polanski Polanski on Indie Theater Now; it plays at the Chain Theater in Long Island City through September 21, so there's still time for you to catch Grant Neale's remarkable performance of this remarkable one-man play (which he commissioned).
As the title suggests, this is a play inspired by the life and work of filmmaker Roman Polanski. He's famous for creating movies like Chinatown and The Pianist, and he's notorious for committing statutory rape. Saviana explores both aspects of Polanski in the fictionalized version she's imagined in her play; what she does here is to try to understand how both of these men--the brilliant inspired artist and the morally repugnant sexual abuser--can live inside the same body, share the same soul. Polanski Polanski is neither defense nor explanation of such a man, but simple a brave and compassionate quest to understand him.
In my review of the very first production of Polanski Polanski a few years ago, I wrote:
She makes no claim to writing a documentary here. Instead, Stanescu, Neale, and [director Tamilla] Woodard seek to probe the psychology of a man who has done the things that Polanski has done... To try to fathom this, Polanski Polanski journeys inside its protagonist's mind at three pivotal moments: just before the rape; eight months later, on the day that Polanski decides to flee the United States rather than risk receiving a long jail sentence; and now, some 32 years later, as Polanski is placed under house arrest in his chalet in Switzerland.We have lots of great contextual/background material to help audience and readers appraise and appreciate Polanski Polanski, including a brand new review of the current Chain Theatre production, written by Cate Cammarata (who teaches theater at SUNY Stony Brook); an interview with Grant Neale; Grant's perspective on the play on his website; a slideshow of photos by Livia Lazar from the Romanian tour; and this video sample of Grant's performance:
We hear what director Woodard calls Polanski's inner monologue: self-indulgent and possibly psychedelically-induced in the first scene, as he becomes overwhelmed by an artist's quest for beauty and perfection while succumbing to forbidden temptation; ironic and self-aware in the final scene, as he mixes regret with bitterness while musing on the spectacle of his "victim" appearing on The Larry King Show. In between is the pivotal moment of decision, where we see perhaps the "realest" Polanski of all: a coward hating his cowardice, saving his skin and deliberately turning himself into a permanent exile from the rest of humanity.
Perhaps most helpful of all, Saviana's own notes about the piece, which appear here. She says: "I hope that our theatrical exploration...intrigued and challenged the audiences to look beyond reductive guilty—not guilty dichotomies."
If that doesn't sum up the whole point of doing art, then I don't know what does.