Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles

I’m not actually familiar with the source material itself — but I’ve seen several adaptations: most notably one by Theatre de Complicite, a French company that toured briefly to the Midwest, and a short film by the Brothers Quay. They both rank as memorable experiences: both very lyrical, very expressionistic, traits which I assume reflect the source text.

This was…rougher going. I’m not one who really requires conventional narrative, but without it, I need either significant emotional investment or visual stimulation. I didn’t really get either one of those things.

My main impression was that, despite a compelling text, they were crippled by a number of mistaken decisions. Language this lyrical is difficult to deliver — and the narrator opted to use a very breathy, nasal voice that failed to convey much beyond a kind of vague annoyance. I enjoyed the pianist, but having her play constantly throughout the piece quickly caused all of her music (and, by extension, the show itself) to blend together into an indistinct mish-mash: I found myself simultaneously getting a headache and starting to go to sleep from it.

The pacing of the play was awkward — sections jerked forwards through a series of startlingly brief blackout scenes, and would then stop for a ten-minute monologue. This fragmented quality may have been a deliberate choice — but regardless, it was more disorienting than it was evocative of much of anything.

The pieces of a good show are present — brilliant text, strong musical accompaniment, some interesting visual stimulation — but they don’t quite come together into anything that’s easy to sit through. Diehard fans of the prose would probably have a good time — but the curse of the show is its inaccessibility.

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