The One About the Polish Guy: Ives' Polish Joke Opens March 18

News   The One About the Polish Guy: Ives' Polish Joke Opens March 18
Polish Joke, David Ives' comedy about cultural cliches and one man's attempt to avoid them, opens its New York premiere run March 18 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II, following previews from Feb. 25.
Malcom Gets in Polish Joke.Malcom Gets and Walter Bobbie in Polish Joke.
Malcom Gets in Polish Joke.Malcom Gets and Walter Bobbie in Polish Joke. Photo by Joan Marcus

Malcolm Gets (Amour, "Caroline in the City") stars as Jasiu, in the company of Nancy Bell, Walter Bobbie, Nancy Opel and Richard Ziman. MTC bills the play by the author of All in the Timing and Mere Mortals this way: "How many Polish jokes do you know? Young Jasiu has heard plenty. Warned against becoming the butt of a joke, he sets out in search of new ethnicities and adventures. But could it be true that being Polish is a destiny? How do you escape from the human condition? This uproarious comedy explores the dilemma of finding out who you are and where you come from — and where you go from there."

John Rando (Urinetown) directs. The staging plays MTC's Off-Broadway Stage II at City Center. Performances continue to April 20.

The comedy had its world premiere at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre in 2001.

"The play is a journey play about a young man growing up Polish and what it's like to be Polish," Ives told Playbill On-Line in 2001, when the play premiered in Seattle. "I'm speaking from personal experience, growing up on the South side of Chicago and knowing a thing or two about it. So, I would say it's a sort of 'fantasia on Polish-American themes,' if I may steal from Tony Kushner for a second. It's a series of steps along the journey of someone trying to deal with metaphysical state of 'being Polish,' which is a state in which nothing you ever try can ever come out right. It's his discoveries on the road to wisdom about 'Polishness' and so it draws on recollections of growing up in Chicago, but it's sort of a Polish Candide."

Ives explained, "I think that this play certainly has elements of fantasy in it; in fact, it goes in and out of little fantasy worlds that take him to different places of 'Polishness.' But I think that I have a prejudice toward plays that don't have couches and don't have kitchens. I go to the theatre to get away from the world, so the theatre, for me, is a crystallized expression of somebody's interior and I seem to crystallize into fantasy (which I guess I should be paying a lot of money to psychoanalysis for). I like plays to be a little suspended above the Earth because there's a lot of freedom there. "It may also just be my short attention span. I just have a prejudice against realism. As I've said before: Realism is not only the bane of the theatre, but is the bane of reality. So I flee it at every possible turn."


Ives is currently at work on Disney's The Little Mermaid for the stage, and, with Jim Steinman, on Batman: The Musical. The Primary Stages production of his play, Mere Mortals, featured Nancy Opel and was directed by John Rando. He has adapted 11 classic American musicals for City Center's Encores! series, among them The Pajama Game, Strike Up the Band and Do Re Mi (all directed by John Rando); Wonderful Town; The Boys From Syracuse; Out of This World; and the upcoming New Moon.

Rando won the Tony Award for directing Urinetown and staged Dance of the Vampires. He also helmed A Thousand Clowns and Neil Simon's The Dinner Party.

Ziman appeared in a regional run of Polish Joke. He played Alfie in York Theatre Company's recent concert revival of A Family Affair.

Bell makes her MTC debut in Polish Joke. Her previous stage credits include performances in South Coast Repertory's The Circle, The Philanderer (Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle Award nomination) and All My Sons.

Walter Bobbie who made a splash in Guys and Dolls as Nicely-Nicely Johnson but made a bigger splash as artistic director of Encores! and director of the revival of Chicago, which transferred to Broadway for a (continuing) long run (that earned him a Best Director Tony Award). He also directed Broadway's Footloose. This is his first acting credit since 1992's Guys and Dolls.

Gets' credits include Broadway's Amour and Off Broadway's Boys and Girls (Playwrights Horizons), A New Brain and Merrily We Roll Along (York Theatre Company). He is widely known for starring as Richard in TV's "Caroline in the City."

Opel is a recent refugee of Urinetown, for which she was Tony Award nominated for playing Miss Pennywise. Other Broadway credits include Triumph of Love, Ring Round the Moon, Getting Away With Murder, Sunday in the Park With George, Anything Goes and Evita.

Designers are Loy Arcenas (set), David C. Woolard (costume), Donald Holder (lighting) and Bruce Ellman (sound).

MTC's Stage II at City Center is at 131 W. 55th Street. Tickets are $45 and can be reserved by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212. For more information, visit

Malcom Gets and Richard Ziman in <i>Polish Joke</i>.
Malcom Gets and Richard Ziman in Polish Joke. Photo by Joan Marcus
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