Category Archives: Performance

HENRY IV, PART 2 (LISTEN NOW ON BBC DRAMA ON 3–LINK BELOW) ·

Henry IV, Part 2

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Drama on 3

by William Shakespeare
Introduced by Toby Jones

Cast:

KING HENRY IV ….. James Purefoy
PRINCE HARRY …..Luke Thompson
SIR JOHN FALSTAFF …..Toby Jones
LORD CHIEF JUSTICE …..Peter Sullivan
JUSTICE SHALLOW ….. James Fleet
ARCHBISHOP / FEEBLE / SILENCE ….. Dominic Coleman
NORTHUMBERLAND / FANG / WESTMORELAND ….. Gerard McDermott
DOLL TEARSHEET / LADY PERCY ….. Natalie Simpson
MISTRESS QUICKLY / LADY NORTHUMBERLAND ….. Georgie Glen
PISTOL / PETO / FIRST GROOM ….. Lloyd Hutchinson
BARDOLPH / BULLCALF / MOWBRAY ….. Ewan Bailey
COLEVILE / SHADOW ….. Tunji Kasim
HASTINGS / MOULDY ….. Samuel James
WARWICK ….. Dominic Mafham
LANCASTER / DAVY / MESSENGER / WART ….. Will Kirk
POINS/ SECOND GROOM / GOWER ….. Hasan Dixon
GLOUCESTER / PAGE ….. Billy Jenkins
CLARENCE / SERVANT ….. Connor Curren

Music composed by Jon Nicholls
Sound design by Keith Graham, Peter Ringrose and Ali Craig

Adapted and directed by Sally Avens

The king may have won the battle of Shrewsbury, but civil war still rages across a divided country and the royal family itself is at odds: Henry is ailing and remains uncertain of his son’s unruly ways; is Harry ready to take up the responsibilities of Kingship when the time comes? Or will Falstaff, that ‘villainous abominable misleader of youth’, persuade him to the bad once more?

Shakespeare’s play provides both hilarity and heartbreak as it reflects upon ageing, the legitimacy of leadership and the burden of power.

Available now

1 hour, 59 minutes

OFF-oFF THE (4th) WALL:  NEW SHOWS ANNOUNCED, 3/25-4/2, 2024  ·

Discovering the vibrant landscape of Off-Off Broadway reveals a tapestry of diverse narratives and artistic innovations that defy conventional norms. Here’s a glimpse into the upcoming performances that promise to captivate audiences with their unique storytelling and creative prowess.

Off and Off-Off Broadway Shows

    1.  Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares The Tony Award winner presents her own story, a comedic gem infused with original music created alongside Todd Almond. Directed by Annie Tippe, the show stars Laura Benanti alongside “Inner Demons” Barrie McLain and Chelsea Lee Williams. This captivating production delves into Benanti’s illustrious career, from her early days as an ingenue to her current status as a seasoned performer.

Catch this limited engagement from May 9 to June 2, 2024, spanning 18 performances only, at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane, New York City). Press inquiries are handled by Chris Boneau, Michelle Farabaugh, and Angela Yamarone of Audible Theater.

For those unable to attend in person, a recording of the live performance will be available globally on Audible as an Audible Original starting May 9, 2024–Michelle Farabaugh

  1. A Final Toast by Michele A Miller

The world premiere of “A Final Toast” by Michele A Miller, directed by Kathy Curtiss and presented by Renaissance Now Theatre & Film, unfolds at the Chain Theatre (312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10018) from May 10 to 26, 2024. This poignant comedy delves into the intricate dynamics of families dealing with mothers entering dementia, featuring a stellar cast including Jana Robbins as Blanche, Jolie Curtsinger as Ella, Diane J Findlay as Carol, and Sachi Parker as Alice.–Jonathan Slaff

  1. Issue #9 by Briana Bartenieff

Making its world premiere, “Issue #9” written and directed by Briana Bartenieff, with music composed by J.H. Greenwell, takes the stage at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave.) from April 4 to 21. This horror musical unfolds a tragic tale fueled by adolescent bullying and the obsession with unattainable beauty ideals, leading to revenge and family tragedy.–Jonathan Slaff

  1. The Miser by Molière (adapted by David Chambers)

Experience the re-imagined version of Molière’s “The Miser,” adapted by David Chambers and directed by Lucie Tiberghien. Presented by Molière in the Park, this comedic masterpiece is set at LeFrak Center in Brooklyn, from April 27 to May 19, 2024. Delve into the absurdities and timeless truths of Harpagon’s world, brilliantly portrayed by a talented cast including MaYaa Boateng, Alana Raquel Bowers, Francesca Faridany, Lisa Gorlitsky, Lakisha May, Daniel Pearce, and Calvin Leon Smith.David Gibbs

  1. Segal Center Spring 2024 Season

The Segal Center at CUNY Graduate Center presents a vibrant lineup for Spring 2024, featuring events, readings, film screenings, and discussions around theatre and performance.  Highlights include celebrations of Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The New Black Fest, Robert Lyons and the Ohio Theatre, Rasaboxes, Nehad Selaiha, Jon Fosse, Marvin Carlson, World Voices On Migration, and the Segal Center Film Festival.  All events are free and open to the public–Frank Hentschker 

  1. Works & Process Presents Experiments in Opera: The Lives and Dreams of Nikola Tesla

Join Works & Process for an evening of opera in development, “The Lives and Dreams of Nikola Tesla,” featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo. This event, held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Peter B. Lewis Theater (1071 Fifth Avenue, NY), offers a glimpse into the creation of this new opera by Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch, exploring Tesla’s life and inventions in a post-apocalyptic New York City.

Tickets: $35 to Choose-What-You-Pay URL works and process ON Works & Process worksandprocess.orgMichelle Tabnick 

Be part of Off-off’s vibrant landscape!

(Gemini, Perplexity, and Chat GPT provided writing  for this article.)

LOPE DE VEGA: ‘DOG IN THE MANGER’ (LISTEN ON BBC RADIO 3 UNTIL MARCH 30–LINK BELOW) ·

Released On: 03 Mar 2024

Available for 27 days

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Spanish Golden Age comedy starring Olivia Poulet and Joe Thomas. Lope de Vega, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was one of Spain’s greatest writers and the author of something like 1800 plays. Of the several hundred remaining works, Dog in the Manger, written in 1618, is regarded as his masterpiece. It is a tale of Love, Envy, Class and downright nonsense: a scandalous comedy in a new version for radio by David Johnston.

CAST Diana – Olivia Poulet Teodoro – Joe Thomas Tristan – Sion Pritchard Marcela – Aimee-Ffion Edwards Ricardo – Francois Pandolfo Federico – Danny Ashok Fabio – Alex Devrient Anarda – Valerie Vansovica Octavio – Hugh Thomas Ludovico – Simon Armstrong Camilo – Dino Kelly Peter – Curtis Kemlo Translated and adapted by David Johnston Sound: Catherine Robinson Director: John Norton A BBC Audio Wales production.

MoMA SUED BY ARTIST WHO PERFORMED NUDE IN MARINA ABRAMOVIC WORK ·

(from The New York Times, 1/24; via The Drudge Report; Photo: The New York Times.)

A performance artist has sued the Museum of Modern Art, saying that officials neglected to take corrective action after several visitors groped him during a nude performance for the 2010 retrospective “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.”

The allegations were submitted this week in New York Supreme Court, with the artist, John Bonafede, seeking compensation for emotional distress, career disruption, humiliation and other damages.

Mr. Bonafede had participated in one of Ms. Abramovic’s most famous works from the 1970s, “Imponderabilia,” which requires two nude performers to stand opposite each other in a slim doorway that visitors are encouraged to squeeze through to enter an adjoining gallery.

According to his lawsuit, Mr. Bonafede was sexually assaulted seven times by five museum visitors. He reported four of the individuals to MoMA security, which ejected them from the galleries, the lawsuit said; the fifth assault was directly observed by security.

Mr. Bonafede said in legal filings, however, that MoMA officials “turned a blind eye” to the assaults and created a hostile work environment where performers were expected to submit to the actions of unruly audience members. His lawsuit comes nearly 14 years after the exhibition; New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gave people an additional window to file sexual misconduct claims, expired in November, but there was an agreement to extend this case.

“John believes that there should be edgy performance art like this in major institutions,” said his lawyer, Jordan Fletcher. “But his goal here is to make sure that performers are properly taken care of and that their safety is ensured.”

(Read more)

AT CARNEGIE HALL: HANDEL’S MESSIAH BY THE ORATORIO SOCIETY OF NEW YORK ·

(Edward Kiszus’s article appeared on Opening Night Online, 12/19/2023; Photo: Handel’s Messiah performed by the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall.. Photo by Edward Kliszus.)

Handel’s Messiah performed by the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall.

Accompanied by a coterie of gifted solo artists, a bespoke Kent Tritle strode to center stage in a radiant, scarlet jacket to conduct Handel’s Messiah (1741) by the Oratorio Society of New York. The full house erupted into a resounding applause befitting the greatest historical luminaries of choral conducting, like Robert Shaw, Sir David Willcocks, and Sir George Solti.

The sublime opening intones of the opening Sinfonia, set in a stately French overture form, established the work’s overall pathos and foundation for the first Arioso performed by tenor Martin Bakari. With ‘Comfort Ye’ and ‘Ev’ry Valley,’ Bakari demonstrated his crisp diction, articulation, expressive power, and mastery of swift melismatic passages.

Tritle conducted with bravura, inspiration, and precision. His choices of dynamics and tempi built energy, excitement, urgency, and intensity. Messiah emerged as a living, breathing entity of vitality and passion. For audiences new and seasoned, Tritle reinvented and refreshed Messiah, crafting its musical treasures for heightened accessibility as he delivered glorious crescendi and decrescendi.

These variations of dynamics occurred within the scope of Tritle’s faithfulness to the precepts of Baroque Affektenlehre that masterfully characterized anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival, the sorrow of his crucifixion, and the glory of his resurrection. After all, Handel’s score markings are less about dynamics and more associated with tempo and atmosphere with terms like LargoLarghettoAllegro, and Andante. Tritle displayed his unwavering commitment to excellence and ability to connect with an audience through music’s expressive power.

Countertenor Daniel Moody demonstrated his dramatic vocal authority throughout the concert. Moody’s extended range projected ethereal beauty, while his vocal agility displayed a fluid and effortless musical flow. Moody’s vocal acrobatics and virtuosity conveyed a sense of passion and conviction essential to the interpretation of Messiah. We heard this and more in Moody’s performance of ‘O thou tellest good tidings to Zion.’

John Brancy, bass-baritone, projected a deep and powerful aural narrative. His strong presence conveyed a sense of solemnity and gravity as in the aria “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” Brancy also expressed triumph and joy, as noted in “The trumpet shall sound” with the addition of virtuoso trumpeter Maximilian Morel. Brancy’s role served as a key element in the work’s rich and dynamic sound tapestry.

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‘THE SPANISH TRAGEDY’ BY THOMAS KYD (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd Abridged and adapted by Pauline Harris and Emma Smith

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Spain is in the middle of a peace treaty with Portugal, when Marshall Hieronimo is forced down a brutal path of vengeance from which there is no return. This bold and visceral adaptation is intercut with contemporary music in this new BBC Audio Drama production. It powerfully explores the morality of revenge, the stages of grief, and violence, and the poetry of extreme emotion.

Hieronimo – Robert Glenister Lorenzo – Sandy Grierson Bel-Imperia – Joanna Vanderham King of Spain/Bazardo – Michael Birtenshaw Duke of Castille/Viceroy of Portugal – Jonathan Keeble Ghost of Andrea/The Executioner/Portuguese Ambassador – John Lightbody Revenge/Maid to Isabella – Jessica Turner Isabella – Emma Cunniffe Horatio – Will Kirk Pedringano – Don Gilet Balthazar – Josh Bryant-Jones Alexandro/Paige – Tom Kiteley Requim song composed and performed by Jules Maxwell, Lina Rodriques, and James Chapman Production co-ordinator – Jonathan Powell Introduction by Professor Emma Smith from Hertford College, Oxford Sound by Keith Graham and Alison Craig Produced and Directed by Pauline Harris

 

OF MICE, AND MEN: NEW ‘AN AMERICAN TAIL’ BRINGS FIEVEL TO THE STAGE ·

(Colette Davidson’s article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, 5/17; Glen Stubbe Photography/Courtesy of Children’s Theatre Company.)

May 17, 2023|MINNEAPOLIS

Fievel Mousekewitz’s immigration story begins like so many others – a menacing, outside threat. The packing of bags. A tumultuous voyage at sea.

But, as the name suggests, Fievel isn’t a person, he’s a mouse. And the threat is a band of cats.

Fievel’s tale – “An American Tail” – is a story of loss, hope, rebuilding, and family. It is a story shared by many Americans, some recently, some in generations past.

WHY WE WROTE THIS

A story focused on

HOPE

Generations of American kids grew up on the story of Fievel Mousekewitz. At a time when roughly a quarter of Americans are satisfied with immigration levels, a new play looks at what it means to come to America.

Now, the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis is revisiting the 1986 film classic in dramatic form, in a world premiere from Tony-winning playwright Itamar Moses and Obie-winning director Taibi Magar. The tale of Fievel and his Jewish family’s traumatic uprooting from 19th-century Russia – in what is now Ukraine – to the boroughs of New York City is one that members of Generation X will remember from the animated film and a new generation can learn from.

In the opening act, the family of mice sing, “There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese!” The puns are abundant, but the lessons are universal.

“America is a patchwork of arrivals, but how do we welcome each new wave?” says Mr. Moses in an interview. “There are threats. But if we can work together, a better version of ourselves is always somewhere out there.”

Ultimately, “An American Tail” harks back to an era when immigration was romanticized, not politicized, in films like “West Side Story” (1961) or “Coming to America” (1988). This February, a Gallup Poll showed that Americans’ satisfaction with the country’s level of immigration had dropped to 28%, its lowest in a decade.

“This is reaching back to a happier time, a vision of immigration when it was seen simply as a part of the way this country worked,” says David Itzkowitz, a St. Paul-based historian. “Now, antisemitism is back in the media. … Immigration has become a race issue.”

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***** ‘DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD REVIEW’ – A MAGNIFICENT COMPLICITÉ CREATION ·

(Arifa Akhar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/39; Photo: ‘Beautiful moments of physical theatre’ … Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead at the Barbican, London. Photograph: Marc Brenner.)

Barbican, London
Simon McBurney directs a toweringly innovative adaptation of the eco-thriller by Nobel-winner Olga Tokarczuk

The opening night of this Complicité production was aborted at the 11th hour last week when its star, Kathryn Hunter, took ill. As the actor Amanda Hadingue walks on to a bare stage, house lights still on, and begins to speak about coughs and Covid, it seems to be leading to another postponement.

Complicité fans may recognise this unassuming start as a signature move, however, and know not to be fooled. From the simplicity of a single actor at a mic, this show directed by Simon McBurney grows like its own verdant forest. It becomes an almighty and toweringly innovative adaptation of Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s murder mystery eco-noir novel, written in wry, profound and glittering prose.

With the help of an autocue (entirely excusable given the gargantuan burden of narration), Hadingue plays Janina, a beady-eyed, chronically sick animal lover living in a remote Polish village rocked by a series of inexplicable murders. The dead are all from the hunting club and Janina volubly espouses the theory that woodland animals are getting their revenge.

Her friends – Dizzy (Alexander Uzoka), a former student; Boros (Johannes Flaschberger), an entomologist; and Oddball (César Sarachu), a neighbour – are all outsiders and non-conformists. Janina is a fabulous creation, both hero and antihero. She is a thorn in the side of the authorities, shooting off messages to the police and quoting government laws at the council – a Miss Marple, lady of letters and Fargo’s Marge Gunderson in one. Hadingue inhabits her so fully that we feel her grief over the death of her dogs – “my girls” – as an epic tragedy. Though Janina is, on the face of it, an animal rights activist, the core of this drama is about the condition of being human: how we live and age, our burdens, privileges and abuses.

Theatrically, this is a masterclass in how to fill a big stage, in part through sound (Christopher Shutt) and lighting (Paule Constable). The set by Rae Smith emerges organically until it seems there are forests behind and constellations above, much of it created through Dick Straker’s astonishing video design.

Scenes flare up out of darkness, with no visible setting up or dismantling. Present and past zoom back and forth so smoothly that it looks entirely seamless. The back-screen is used to brilliant effect, Janina’s projected nightmares of her dead mother appearing almost Hitchcockian.

Metatheatricality – nothing over-excitable – brings humorous flourishes: “May I borrow your microphone?” says Boros, who proceeds to tell us his backstory. “Will you turn that fucking music off?” shouts Janina as a stage instruction.

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‘DOGS OF EUROPE’ (BELARUS FREE THEATRE, ADELAIDE FESTIVAL) ·

(Jansson J. Antmann’s article appeared in Limelight Magazine, 3/2/2023;  Photo: Dogs of Europe. Photo © Adam Forte, Daylight Breaks.)

Exiled from their homeland, the performers of Belarus Free Theatre deliver an urgent warning against complacency in the face of rising authoritarianism.

Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

 “Intellectual disgrace stares from every human face,” wrote WH Auden in his 1939 poem In Memory of WB Yeats; its “dogs of Europe” left barking in a nightmare world where poetry no longer unites nations.

In 2019, Belarusian author Alhierd Bacharevič drew upon this canine lament for the title of his sprawling, award-winning novel, which has been brilliantly adapted for the stage by Belarus Free Theatre. Both the book and the troupe have since been banned by the authoritarian government in Minsk, with most of the performers now residing in Poland.

The fabric of Bacharevič’s magnum opus comprises several interwoven storylines, but BFT’s co-directors Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada have largely focused on the stories of the young Belarusian Mauchun and a German investigator Teresius Skima, both played by Pavel Haradnitski.

Beginning in 2019, a teacher instructs his class to bury a time capsule. The play then fast-forwards to 2049 and a Europe once again divided. We learn that Russia has invaded Ukraine and, after a brief nuclear war, established the New Reich. This includes much of the former Soviet Union, including the Baltic states. The remaining countries fall under the European League, and the two blocs are physically separated by the latest iteration of the Iron Curtain, now called the Great Wall.

Not that the New Reich and the European League are all that dissimilar. This is a world in which a literary upbringing is a thing of the past, and the literate middle-class has been erased. Depending on which side of the wall you find yourself, books are either burned or simply rendered obsolete by the digital age.

In their place, an alcohol-infused, hyper-sexualised world is split between Russian traditionalism and a more inclusive, ‘Westernised’ hedonism. It’s very much a case of ‘same, same, but different’, and like dogs, the inhabitants on both sides are only too happy to urinate on the place they call home.

If the two blocs differ at all, it is in the New Reich’s rudimentary medical care and education system, which exists solely to breed mistrust, informants and spies. The setting of the first act is the fictional Belarusian border town of White Dews – a nightmarish Pieter Bruegel painting come to life, with people too drunk to recognise how disadvantaged they are.

The play takes place in 2049, but for those familiar with the remnants of the former Soviet Union, this is no dystopia. Barely 25 years after the fall of Communism, industrial towns like White Dews can still be found frozen in time, their Soviet infrastructure rusted, decaying and desperately in need of a capital injection that will never come.

(Read more)

VÁCLAV HAVEL: ‘AUDIENCE’ AT LA MAMA–THROUGH FEBRUARY 19 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

by Bob Shuman

Visit La MaMa

Translated and Directed by Vít Hořejš
Performed by Vít Hořejš & Theresa Linnihan
Production design: Alan Barnes Netherton
Marionettes: Milos Kasal, Jakub”Kuba” Krejci, Theresa Linnihan
Costumes, Vaněk and Brewmaster puppets: Theresa Linnihan  
Pre-show video: Suzanna Halsey
Producer of GOH: Bonnie Sue Stein/GOH Productions
Presented by: La MaMa in association with GOH Productions and Vaclav Havel Library Foundation

Václav Havel’s conceptualization of a self-informing citizen and employee, set during Czechoslovakia’s communist era, loses its absurdly comic and ironic sting in Audience, now playing at La MaMa through February 19.  The reason has nothing to do with the quality of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette’s puppet version, directed by Vít Horejš (puppetry is a practiced art form in Central and Eastern Europe), where Theresa Linnihan locates the desperation of a coarse, destructing Brewmaster with the intensity of exposing an O’Neill character (and the show includes a growing puppet; marionettes by Milos Kasal and Jakub “Kuba” Krejci; surveillance cameras; and an important historical overview on Havel and the fall of Czech authoritarianism, by Suzanne Halsey, which goes by too fast).  Instead, the issue lies with American culture’s acceptance of privacy incursions, whether from, among others, TikTok, the NSA, computer hackers, the IRS, Facebook tracking devices, and Chinese spy balloons (which the government recently seemed conflicted about shooting down, like wavering about giving out a phone number). 

Havel (1936-2011) was known for never being much good at giving an interview, as the president of the Czech Republic and statesman (he went from being jailed to Kafka’s castle in Prague), much less as a playwright, dissident, and prisoner.  Apparently, he could not look into the eyes of investigators or T.V. hosts, for fear of giving himself away and being punished.  A second-nature revulsion to self-disclosure might even be a reason why his Vaněk character (the role is thought to be a reflection of the author, which Havel denied), in the three one-acts in which he appears, remains a passive construction.  Certainly, in Audience, the Brewmaster is more a full profile than a dramatic character in conflict with an evenly matched opponent (Havel, apparently, sees his creation as the “audience” for his boss, not as an adversary).  Vít Horejš, as Vaněk, offers a generous, comedic performance for a largely mild, passive role and, with his associates in the production, he meets the complex demands of the tightly choreographed dance of puppetry—an under-rated technically challenging craft, on top of the acting involved.  Horejš’s  translation offers a harsher, perhaps more dramatically right, ending than has been seen before (Vaněk, typically, tries to sneak out of the office without being heard). Unlike many modern American theatremakers, and others around the world—Havel, apparently, learned not to reveal himself in his art–that may help to explain pauses in his texts, which the author hoped would cause audiences to think about why they are there; other “freer” dramatists might have taken the opportunity to fill out the roles autobiographically.  

Written in 1975, Audience (sometimes translated as Interview) is set in a Czech brewery boss’s office—an arena which Havel knew about first-hand. He was forced to be re-educated—to disregard his bourgeois background and presumptions and learn how to put in “a real day’s work.”  Some might see his “dumbing down,” for the common good, as relevant to privacy issues in the U.S. now.  Even in the Covid age, how often is one asked to meet for a beer with those in the office, or after a Zoom meeting, provide gossip on other employees, deal with an office snitch, bully, or self-appointed rule enforcer, or give a self-evaluation?

Yet security cameras in public spaces for protection, such as in subway stations, may fail in New York City and the United States Supreme Court finds itself unable to pinpoint a 2022 leaker, regarding an abortion draft, from a limited number of potential suspects. Some could question how the general population is benefiting by accepting its own deep scrutiny–through so many offices and algorithms, which, basically want to pinpoint taxpayer mishandling or assert control–and to what extent someone should have the privilege of knowing someone else’s personal information (without reciprocal transparent terms). At the same time, hiring managers may question the need for a college education, where critical thinking can be learned.  The future is uncertain as to whether AI will carve out white-collar jobs, in any case. 

Which brings theatregoers back to Havel, Kafka, and bureaucracy: Personal data can be extracted so automatically and benignly, and the fear of interrogation, the way Havel had come to know it, through breaches in human rights (Havel maintained he was not tortured), is largely dismissed. 

Audience is a play about a terrifying reality, that has already happened here and is becoming more and  more noticeable—and will swell more. 

Be aware. 

© 2023 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Photos: Jonathan Slaff; Publicist: Jonathan Slaff.