The Policeman

At Kresge Little Theatre through Saturday

Perhaps The Policeman is of some interest to specialists in Eastern European affairs as a sample of what passes for intellectual ferment behind the Iron Curtain. If so, there it is at Kresge in all its freedom-loving ineptitude, and the specialists are welcome to it.

As advertised, Slawomir Mrozek's "Drama from Gendarme Circles" (translated by Edmund Ordon and adapted by Mary Manning) is a satire on totalitarianism and an attack on imposed conformity. It begins when the last political prisoner in an unnamed nation signs his confession and reconciles himself to "the Infant and his uncle the Regent," which means that everybody in "the best state in the world" has attained a state of "perfect loyalty," with "not a hint of incipient disloyalty," as various characters tell one another with maddening frequency. By the time someone began screaming that "the people have become wildly, cruelly, bestially loyal," I felt for him. I really did.

One of Mr. Mrozek's few other jokes is one about a police sergeant whose wife sews military symbols on his "long johns" (as they are waggishly referred to) in order to console him for having to wear civilian clothes. The situation is not much improved by a reference to the sergeant's "undercover activities" (get it?) or by an elaborate bit showing the sergeant putting on his uniform with voluptuous delight.

In fact, the situation is not much improved by anything. The Poets' production (directed by Miss Manning; designed with some competence by John Beck) is generally below Harvard standards, eschewing realism without attaining anything in particular, certainly not anything witty or apposite or authoritative. The staging is prosaic, dull, and clumsy (if Miss Manning has an analyst, she might ask him about her strange compulsion to make her actors stand in the down left corner with their backs to the persons whom they are ostensibly addressing). The acting ranges from close-but-no-cigar to indescribably painful. Eustacia Grandin, Stephen Aaron, and Jack Rogers have their moments, and all are at least better than the play deserves.