By ELISABETH VINCENTELLI
THE best sits right next to the worst in "3 Kinds of Exile," the new project by John Guare. The show is made up of three distinct works that share a theme - the experiences of a trio of Eastern European migrs - but vary wildly in quality. Unfortunately there's no intermission that would allow a discreet exit after the second playlet, which is the evening's crown jewel and directly precedes its mediocre epilogue.
The first, "Karel," is a 17- minute appetizer of a monologue. Martin Moran plays a man reminiscing about an acquaintance. That unnamed pal - the late director Karel Reisz, an old friend of Guare's - left Czechoslovakia for England in 1939. Years later, he developed a terrible red rash all over his body.
The persistent rash is the subject of much puzzlement, and the piece ends with a "Twilight Zone" twist.
The show concludes with "Funiage," whose painful attempts at comic absurdity and erratic mix of styles recall Guare's last big production, "A Free Man of Color."
Surrounded by a mediocre ensemble clunkily directed by Neil Pepe, David Pittu ("LoveMusik," "The Coast of Utopia") plays Witold Gombrowicz, an experimental Polish novelist and playwright who left his home country in 1939, never to see it again. Guare has described him as a hero of his.
The bio-musical sketch draws on Gombrowicz's life and works - including his play "Ivona, Princess of Burgundia" - but 42 minutes of forced zaniness is tiresome. Oh, and good luck figuring out what happened to the writer.
But then, stuck in the middle, there's "Elzbieta Erased," a beautiful duet for Omar Sangare and Guare himself.
Over 42 minutes, they take turns recounting the hectic life of the late Elzbieta Czyzewska, a Polish film and theater star whose career faltered after she married journalist David Halberstam in 1965 and followed him to New York.
There Czyzewska struggled to make it as an actress. Her accent prevented her from landing roles, and she accumulated mishaps - according to an obituary, her luck "was legendarily bad." Yet she maintained her resolve and dignity.
The affection and admiration the two men have for her is palpable: Guare knew Czyzewska well, and Sangare co-starred with her in a Warsaw production of the playwright's hit "Six Degrees of Separation."
Emotional but also dryly funny, "Elzbieta Erased" is a wondrous love letter, not only to a woman but to acting as a way of life.
Originally published by ELISABETH VINCENTELLI.
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