Intercourse/Stosunki by Cosmino Teatr
Chopin Productions

Critic's Choice - Chicago Reader

Critic's Choice - Chicago Reader "The tone of this whimsical Polish show is about as far from its gruesomely clinical title as it can get. Kuba Pierzchalski and Rachel Karafistan of Cosmino Teatr enact the dynamics of male-female relationships in a wordless 45-minute performance piece that begins with the woman

12/31/04 - 1/9/05

Fri 1045pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Critic's Choice - Chicago Reader "The tone of this whimsical Polish show is about as far from its gruesomely clinical title as it can get. Kuba Pierzchalski and Rachel Karafistan of Cosmino Teatr enact the dynamics of male-female relationships in a wordless 45-minute performance piece that begins with the woman alone in a double bed and ends with the man alone. In between a wife tries to poison, stab, and shoot her husband, though he ends up getting sucked into the TV; a nearly naked Cupid in a red fake-fur loincloth runs shouting through the audience to reach the stage, where he threatens to shoot us with his red-tipped arrows; and the man and woman fight over a chair in a highly choreographed sequence set to tango music. (The sound design includes everything from Dean Martin tunes to techno buzzing and heartbeats.) The piece is crazy enough to almost justify the raucous New Year's Eve crowd's reaction to Pierzchalski's nudity late in the show -- catcalls and laughter. But its intent is also sometimes clearly serious: reflecting Jung's idea of the persona, each performer in the early stages of a budding relationship carries a mask, then dances with the other person's mask. It's hard to say for sure, but I think the nude scene -- in which Pierzchalski dons women's clothing, suggesting the Jungian idea of the anima -- is meant to set up the work's serious, rather sad ending. Under these circumstances it didn't quite work, and maybe it wouldn't under any circumstances. Ultimately the episodic, dreamlike Intercourse failed to coalesce, but Pierzchalski and Karafistan are wonderfully engaging performers worth seeing for their rubbery faces alone" - Laura Molzahn, Chicago Reader 1/6/05

"So much for accessibility. Following the dense and glorious mysteries offered in 2003 and 2004 by Teatr Cogitatur, a Polish theater troupe that played Wicker Park's Chopin Theater, the new year has brought to the Chopin another widely traveled Polish troupe (half Polish, anyway), a veteran of the European festival circuit. This company, however, is strictly minor, judging from the 45-minute piece titled "Intercourse," known in Polish as "Stosunki." It plays two more performances this weekend. With its wordless clowning and universal themes of coupling and uncoupling, in the figurative sense, "Intercourse" sounds like a good bet for world touring. It is the third collaboration of a company called COSmino, which was formed in 1998, the joint project of Rachel Karafistan, of Coventry, England, and Poland's Kuba Pierzchalski. After a prologue set in vitro ? we see Pierzchalski curled up in a fetal position, as if floating in a womb behind a screen ? "Intercourse" depicts an unhappily married couple in a drab brown apartment. The wife (Karafistan) tries three different ways to kill her loutish, cigar-smoking husband (Pierzchalski). Then the husband is sucked into the blue vortex of their television screen. The wife's life improves: The brown color scheme changes to bright yellow, and she entertains a suitor, as well as a visit from Cupid. The performers have some comic charm, but man, do they push! They push and push and the laughs do not come. To its credit, "Intercourse" isn't interested in straight-up street-fair brand commedia; it's going for a darker, more complex kind of engagement. But the performers don't get to show off much in the way of distinctive physical comedy. Only in a dance sequence featuring puppet versions of themselves do these two, particularly the lanky, plaintive Karafistan, hit two or three interesting notes: High spirits mixed with jealousy mixed with sadness. The bulk of this 2001 performance piece is taken up with familiar notions of love, lust and gender-scrambling. (At one point, Pierzchalski gets a bra and panties for a birthday present, which he receives in his birthday suit.) The show slogs along and then doesn't end so much as top, to bewildered audience response. Well. The year is young" - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune 1/7/05

"Rachel Karafistan is an actress of Turkish heritage who lives in Great Britain -- a tall, dark-eyed, attractive young woman with a wonderfully mobile face and long limbs. Kuba Pierzchalski is a Polish actor -- a ghostly pale fellow with thinning hair, skinny legs and a well-calculated blank look. Together the performers form the silent duo COSmino, whose show, "Intercourse," is now in a brief run at the Chopin Theatre. A language-free hour of interrelated sketches, it starts out strongly but gives way to heavy-duty cliches as it explores the battle between the sexes and the love-hate component of many romantic relationships. Drawing on a Chaplinesque style, with all its physical comedy and absurdist undertones, the couple gets off to a good start as they portray a 1950s-style Eastern European couple who share a dreary, brown-toned little flat and an even drearier marriage. She is the dutiful wife who pulls off her husband's boots and replaces them with slippers before serving him dinner on demand. He is boorish, hard-drinking, uncommunicative and (despite her best efforts at doing him in) apparently indestructible. In the funniest moment in the entire show, he is finally swallowed whole by his television set. A more modern take on romance follows as a painfully shy young man attempts to seduce a pretty young woman, showering her with gifts in order to gain approval. She is charmed, but once the relationship takes off and the glow of new love dims, things start to deteriorate, and both the man and woman (wielding puppet figures) become self-parodies. In another scene the couple engage in a musical chairs power play (set to an Astor Piazzolla tango) that makes its point well before it's over. At one point, the man (who also cavorts as a campy Eros in furry red trunks), arrives onstage in the nude and proceeds to engage in that most tired of all conceits, a cross-dressing routine. It is, quite literally, a drag. "Intercourse," which begins and ends with the actors assuming fetal positions in a lightbox, would benefit greatly from cleaner transitions and editing. Trimmed to 30 minutes, and paired with another piece on a contrasting theme, their show might have far greater appeal" - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times 1/6/05

"We’ve long known the Chopin Theatre (1543 W. Division St.; 773-278-1500) is one home of the rich Eastern European cultural community that thrives in Chicago. This week, we received an announcement about the Cosmino Teatr’s production of a play there called Intercourse, an hour long ’story about women and men performed by two humorous, intelligent and skillful actors. Conventions mingle in this show like a kaleidoscope: from sketch to dance and artistic visions, to the very final scene, which strengthens our conviction that we all?women as well as men?are humans in the first place. Surprisingly indeed?it does not sound like something banal!" - Chicago Magazine

Cosmino Teatr

Rachel Karafistan

Rachel Karafistan, Kuba Pierzchalski

Jakub Zmudzinski

Tags: Polish, Theater, , 2005