PTP/NYC: The Europeans

Howard Barker offers a bleak history play.

0

Comments

Add +
  • BABY DADDY Lunney, center, worries about his wife's newborn child; Photographs:...

BABY DADDY Lunney, center, worries about his wife's newborn child; Photographs:...

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Howard Barker couldn’t have bought himself a better surname. The irascible British writer snarls out his “Theatre of Catastrophe” epics like a chained dog—and if you cross him, he bites. But, as a didactic dramatist, he also displays the opportunism of a carnival promoter. Barker has the showman’s instinct: Despite his avowed hatred of cant, he tosses off Brechtian aphorisms (“Manners will be back as soon as the shops are open”); contra his dogged antiheroism, he crams in an overabundance of vibrant protagonists.

In his thrilling, disorienting The Europeans, we spin between a cynical general (Robert Emmet Lunney) and his mutilated, pregnant soulmate (the ferocious Aidan Sullivan), only to be snatched away to the side of a craven Emperor (Brent Langdon) or a matricidal priest. Ostensibly, this chaos is 17th-century Vienna, which has just fought back the Turk—but really we are in Barkerland, a place where everyone holds forth on truth and pain, and the obscenities of life are lit as lovingly as icons in a church.

Richard Romagnoli’s production is wildly uneven: Performances run the gamut from pitch perfect (Langdon) to wooden (Lunney, in a bad wig); the amateurish set aims at “bombed palace,” but succeeds only in being limply draped. The herky-jerky pace makes Barker’s Jacobean structure needlessly confusing, and yet scrupulous care has been taken with the comic shtick. In short, The Europeans is a mess. But Barker reminds us that so is life, and his play remains sturdy enough that even some fumbling does not dent it.—Helen Shaw

See more Theater reviews

Atlantic Stage 2. By Howard Barker. Dir. Richard Romagnoli. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.

Users say

0 comments