April 23, 2019

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The Theater at the Forefront of Poland’s Culture Wars

The Theater at the Forefront of Poland’s Culture Wars
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It is easy to see that “Mein Kampf” could offend Catholics and conservatives in a similar vein. At one point, a replica of the “Black Madonna of Czestochowa,” one of Poland’s most revered Catholic icons, will be lowered into view, Mr. Skrzywanek said, and the actors will whitewash her face.

In another scene, an actor will wear a mask of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the founder of the Law and Justice Party, while speaking Hitler’s words, Mr. Skrzywanek said. The character will later be murdered onstage, he added. (In a text message, Mr. Skrzywanek later said these plans had changed.)

But at a recent rehearsal, the actors didn’t seem worried about the play’s provocations. They first rehearsed an absurd scene set in an art gallery, during which two actors voice Hitler’s disapproval of modern art while others pretend to be exhibits. They then rehearsed a powerful scene, set around a dinner table, where the characters spoke anti-Semitic diatribes from the book as if they were like polite conversation, while sipping soup.

Mr. Skrzywanek watched from the side of the room, with his feet on a chair. He said little but occasionally gasped with excitement.

After the rehearsal, Mr. Skrzywanek said he felt a lot of pressure around the play. The play’s first run was close to selling out. “It’s much bigger interest than ‘The Curse,’” he said. “People are totally waiting for it and no one knows what to expect.”

The Law and Justice party’s politicians only become interested in important plays, he added. “I think this may be one.”

But he insisted his aim was not to stir Poland’s culture wars. “Mein Kampf” was meant to be critical of Poland’s liberals, and their aggressive language, as well as conservatives, he said. “For me, that’s really the most radical gesture you can do in Polish theater,” Mr. Skrzywanek said, “to not accuse a specific group of people, but everyone.”

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