Bruno Schulz may not be a household name, but, among certain members of the cognoscenti, this Polish-Jewish artist and writer holds a rarefied place in 20th-century culture. He left a skimpy but compelling body of work that includes dreamlike, often erotic paintings and drawings (our man apparently had a thing for feet) and two story collections-cum-hallucinatory memoirs. Isaac Bashevis Singer, no less, proclaimed of Schulz, "He wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times he succeeded in reaching depths that neither of them reached."
Fortunately for us, that deep vision always reserved a place for bearded men wearing tutus and Attila the Hun helmets. This Double Edge Theatre production, conceived and directed by Stacy Klein, evokes Schulz's life, work, and eventual murder by a Gestapo officer in a whirling, highly theatrical fantasia that emphasizes his affinity for dada and surrealism. Matthew Glassman portrays Joseph, Schulz's alter ego, as a kind of cheerful mystical nebbish -- three qualities you don't often see together but which make him an appealing guide through this sometimes baffling territory. Street minstrels, mannequins, masked figures, and the aforementioned tutu-clad warriors add to the general derangement.
Like with any dream, the precise meaning of Republic of Dreams is difficult to parse, but the play's purpose is more visionary than explanatory. Klein and her talented design team make imaginative use of minimal props and settings, resulting in a brief but colorful evocation of Schulz's peculiar sensibility. Joseph's final words serve as a thumbnail summary of that sensibility and reverberate long after the house lights go up: "No dream, no matter how senseless or absurd, goes wasted in the universe."
Presented by and at La MaMa E.T.C.,
74A E. Fourth St., NYC.
March 8-18. Thu.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
(212) 475-7710 or www.lamama.org.