Review: In Marionette Production of Havel's "Audience," It's a Question of Who's Pulling the Strings
Written by Vaclav Havel
Translated and directed by Vít Hořejš
Presented by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre
at Bohemian National Hall, Manhattan, NYC
June 23 and 29, 2021
|L to R: Theresa Linnihan as The Brewmaster, Vít Hořejš as Vanek. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.|
The comedic Audience—preceded here by a short video by Suzanna Halsey that uses newsreel-style and archival footage and still images to establish the historical context of the play—is the first of four plays by Havel to feature Havel-analog Ferdinand Vaněk as their protagonist. In it, Vaněk, a dissident writer and intellectual, has been obligated to work in a brewery as a manual laborer, a situation that parallels Havel's own experience. The brewmaster (simultaneously played and puppeteered by veteran CAMT member Theresa Linnihan) attempts to ply Vaněk (played and puppeteered by Prague-born theater artist and CAMT co-founder Vít Hořejš, who escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia in 1978 and, with Bonnie Sue Stein, interviewed Havel in 1989), with beer and seemingly friendly questions. As the play and the brewmaster's drunkenness progress, it becomes clear that the brewmaster has ulterior, externally-directed motives, but it also becomes clear that alongside the contrasts in their sobriety, backgrounds, and principles, they share more similarity as subjects of the Communist regime than we and they might have thought.
|L to R: Vít Hořejš as Vanek,Theresa Linnihan as The Brewmaster. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.|
Florida's recent (and likely unconstitutional) legislation demanding documentation of student and faculty political beliefs at public colleges and universities comes to mind when one thinks about how Audience continues to resonate powerfully across national and temporal boundaries. CAMT revives this still vital play with humor, empathy, artistry, and invention.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards