May 24, 2014: Bardzo Dobry

For Adam’s birthday, two months ago, his brother got him tickets to a play in Krakow. Not knowing where we were living, it was a lucky break that the playhouse the tickets were for was short walk from our apartment. The appointed night arrived and we dressed up and headed out the door.

The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre struck me as familiar, somewhat like the Royal Theatre in Victoria, BC, if the theatre were larger, had more gold leaf and 3 floors of private balcony boxes, each with it’s own pair of nude sculptures holding up the next level of balcony. I didn’t grab any pictures. It seemed a little crass to snap pictures while waiting for the play to start (Adam didn’t have the same qualms I did, so enjoy this phone pic).

We sat in hard folding red velvet seats that seemed no less than 50 years-old and watched as the theatre filled up. Most demographics seems represented, even a very young man (early twenties at best) and his fetching date. He was wearing a slightly oversized (possibly borrowed) button down and was somewhat jumpy, while his lady friend seemed more comfortable in her own skin.

The play was entirely in Polish, as to be expected. It was strange to sit in a crowded theatre and not understand a word that was spoken. I was a foreigner. But, as time passed, the feeling of otherness drifted away and left me intensely focused on the stage. I could only understand a few words now and again. “Bardzo,” meaning “very,” which they said a lot, and “dobry,” meaning “good.” But I was getting the basics of the story from studying the physical performance and body language of the actors. Who was making eyes at who, who had the mannerisms of of a villain, etc. I lost myself in the play, and only came out of it on occasion when a verbal joke that passed completely over my head had the audience around me giggling.

After three rounds of bowing and a standing ovation, we filed out of the theatre and into the warm dusk to compare notes. I thought the play was about a young man attempting to make his fortune with a fabric factory. He got caught-up in a love triangle, and ended up on the street as a drunk.

Adam thought it was about: three brothers, and money, and one was a ladies man, and they ran a some sort of factory and needed money for something. They accomplished whatever they were trying to do. Then there was a fire and everyone was sad after that. Then the purple dress ladies dad/pimp/husband and was upset with him (the main guy), because main guy got the woman in the purple dress pregnant. In the end, the main guy became a homeless alcoholic and was bitter about the whole thing. Between us, we managed to figure out the gist of the play in our post play wrap-up on the way home.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s a classic Polish play called “Ziemia Obiecana.” (I’ll leave the link here for anyone who’s curious about the subtler nuances of the play that we missed).