Tom Moorman's director's notes in the program of Theatre Vertigo's Tango begin as follows: "This is the part of the program where I am supposed to lay out the themes of this play. Where I tell you what it means to me, what I hope you learn from it, and why it was worth the, literally, thousands of (hu)man hours involved in producing it. Well, I'm not going to. Not for this play. I don't want to explain the play to you; I want you to explain it to me."
But Tom? I could've used some help with this one. Tango was written in 1964 by the Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek. While it is a "historically important piece of theater," it is not a particularly accessible one, and Vertigo's production sheds little light on why, after all, this play is worth seeing.
Arthur (Nathan Gale) is an uptight, controlling traditionalist who just happened to have a free-lovin' bohemian family. Arthur terrorizes his parents and grandparents, determined to impose a little order on the ragtag assortment of character actors he calls a family. He also happens to be in love with the charmingly nonchalant Ala (Amy Newman), whom he has determined to marry, couching his lusty intentions in the rhetoric of a moral crusader.
The cast, as is to be expected from a Vertigo show, ranges from solid to great. Gary Norman gives a fine performance as Arthur's tremulous uncle Eugene, while Ben Plont is restrained and hilarious as Eddie, the shady character having an affair with Arthur's mother.
The absurdist little romp has moments of humor and cleverness, but I struggled to find the relevance: "Historically significant" isn't going to cut it. Presumably there was some social commentary or allegory going on, but the show's broad, slapsticky approach to humor obscures whatever nuance the script might possess. Wringing every last laugh out of a script like this one may make for a more crowd-pleasing show, but it also made it far too difficult to connect with the material in a meaningful way: I tried, but in the final assessment, I really just didn't "get" it.