Theatre Reviews

Horses at the Window

By Matei Vişniec
Produced by The Trap Door Theatre

When War Becomes a Way of Life

Matei Vişniec’s absurdist tale of hyper-patriotism gets a fresh new look in director Radu-Alexandru Nica’s stylish new staging now playing at Trap Door Theatre. Told in three successive scenes of women sending their men off to war, Horses at the Window explores the insanity created when war is constant

Horses at the Window
Horses at the Window

and no one remembers life without it. The departure of the soldier is inevitably followed by the arrival of a messenger bearing red flowers and some bad news: a son has been blown apart, a father has been driven mad, a husband has been trampled to death by his own fleeing comrades.

Horses at the Window is reminiscent of other absurdest playwrights from Samuel Beckett to fellow countryman Eugene Ionesco, and it has a bit of the political edge of Kafka’s novels as well. In a day when so many go about their lives barely noticing that our own country is always at war, the patriotic fervor of the play’s characters could come off as rather anachronistic. Nica has a light touch, however, so he manages to connect to the moment without hanging the production’s success on it. In fact, the events are contextually timeless in this version, as symbols of American militarism are buried in a heap that includes the naming of bloody European escapades across 600 years. But don’t let the seriousness of all the war stuff put you off. There is humor in the pile, as well; and Nica has allowed his wonderful actors to find it. The result is a marvelously physical production with a superb ensemble feel. Nica and his actors use every inch of Ewelina Dobriesz’s imaginative set and her set consists of every inch of the physical space that is the theatre itself. Whether by door or by window, when the actors leave the building, they really leave the building – blast of cold Chicago evening air at no extra charge. There is a fearlessness to the staging, to the cast and to the production in general that I found quite attractive.

Horses at the Window
Horses at the Window

This production is also of special note because the company has been invited to participate in three separate theatre festivals in Romania later this year. The production is partially sponsored by the Romanian Cultural Institute of New York and by The Cultural Services of the French Embassy (Vişniec spent quite awhile in exile in France), but they are still looking for money for the tour, so if you are

the philanthropic sort be prepared to write a check once you see the show. Especially for those who enjoy absurdist works, this is an exceptional production of a very good play.


Randy Hardwick

The Trap Door Theatre 1655 W. Cortland Ave. Chicago, IL, Tickets: 773–384-0494 or, $20 (2 for 1 Thursdays) Thur thru Sat at 8:00 p.m. Running time is 1 hour 15 minutes with no intermission,Through April 25th

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