by Teresa Lubkiewicz-Urbanowicz
trans. Helena Kaut-Howson
If such a style as Polish Gothic exists, Werewolves is it. With a mandate to produce “rare and unusual works from the world stage,” Pi Theatre has gone way beyond their usual territory—plays from Quebec and Britain—to an Eastern European tale that feels in part like it comes from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and in part from SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. Blehhh!!! Cue the diabolical chortling.
Theresa Lubkiewicz-Urbanowicz’s play premiered in Warsaw in 1974 while Poland was under Communist rule. So maybe this story of a grown man who hates his mother who refuses to die is a political allegory. Even when it’s beyond comprehension, it’s pretty entertaining in a head-shaking sort of way.
Inside an earthy peasant hut, evocatively designed by Jergus Michal Oprsal, farmer Christie Thrush (Ashley O’Connell) and his old mother Maurya (Jane Noble) argue out her last hours as she waits to die, her coffin propped against the wall. He’s a bitter man, gleeful at the prospect of her death, tinkering with the human leg-hold trap he keeps on the porch.
Enter his niece Nora, as weird as the rest of the family. When Maurya dies, her last words to Nora are her recipe for liver sausage. I kid you not.
The mourners at Maurya’s wake include three widows (Melanie Yeats, Shana Orlowsky, Tara Goerzen) who sing beautiful, bizarre folk songs while Maurya keeps sitting up in her casket. Also attending is Nora’s betrothed, Nicholas (Richard Heaven). Thrush hates him. Cue the scary sound effect as three wolves—oops, ominous young men from across the river crash in, stare hard at everyone, and chortle diabolically as a neighbour (Brian Sutton) tells of lambs that had their throats ripped out.
The playwright pulls out all the stops in the final scene. Thrush’s mother, father (David Newham), and sister Kathleen (Lianna Shannon) return from the dead, Thrush’s crimes are revealed, and a dark Eastern European time is had by all.
Because the production is Pi’s annual Emerging Artist Showcase, the cast is young and relatively inexperienced. Noble and O’Connell are fine as the leads with Main and Shannon particularly good in support. To the credit of the actors and director Tammy Isaacson, everyone plays it dead straight. But the British translation, the Irish names, and O’Connell’s slight Irish lilt add another surreal dimension to a fascinating show that could easily be turned into a camp classic.
Move over Rocky Horror. I want to see Werewolves, the Musical.