THE NEW YORKER
In 1930, the fantastically prolific poet, playwright, novelist, and philosopher Jules Romains had four plays running in Paris, including this exuberant “comedy in twenty-three tableaux.” Plays were big back then, full of characters (this one boasts nearly fifty, handled here by a company of thirteen) and overflowing with ideas. The action traces the unlikely course of a man (James Riordan) from his contemplation of suicide to his emergence as a virtual dictator in the city of the title. Along the way, Romains finds time to thoroughly skewer the pretensions of those in the artistic, medical, journalistic, and banking professions, and to offhandedly explore, with a black-comic eye, the peculiarly Western versions of economic, racial, political, and sexual exploitation. The smart new translation is by the director, Gus Kaikkonen, aided immeasurably by the set designer, Roger Hanna, whose colorful and ingenious wall projections sometimes become animated, transporting the audience from a bridge over a canal to a laboratory to a café to a train station to the jungles of Brazil.