The Source for Media Coverage of The Arts in Miami.
Articles, reviews, previews and features on dance and music performances and events.
Sign Up
No one logged in. Log in

Two Plays on One Stage Unveil Totalitarian Reality


Photo: Michael Gioia and Erik Fabregat talk politics in “Protest.” Photo credit: George Schiavone
Written by: Christine Dolen
Article Rating

Sales of George Orwell’s chilling dystopian novel “1984” have soared during the early days of the Trump administration, the headlines pouring out of Washington having repositioned a 1949 literary classic as a 21st century cautionary tale.

The late Czech president and playwright Václav Havel brought his deeply observed, hard-earned perspective on life under totalitarianism to the stage in more than two dozen plays. In a trilogy of one-acts known as the Vaněk plays, Havel utilizes an alter ego – playwright/dissident Ferdinand Vaněk – to illustrate the minefields of daily life during four decades of Communism.

Two of those plays, 1975’s “Audience” and 1978’s “Protest,” are onstage now in Miami Shores, thanks to Mad Cat Theatre Company’s double bill in the SandBox at Miami Theater Center.

And yes, Havel’s plays about courage and conscience,compromise and acquiescence, resonate resoundingly at this moment in American history.

As it always does, Mad Cat has transformed the black box space into a world suited to the production – in this case, a claustrophobic place in which theatergoers watch not just the plays but each other.

Aluminum foil skirts the raised central platform where the action takes place (tin foil hats, anyone?), the lights blink off then suddenly on after the first piece is already underway, and both the audience and actors have to push through a slit in hanging plastic to enter or leave the SandBox. Concealed from view, actor Erik Fabregat sings two Beatles songs from the Prague Spring era as well as “Alcohol” by the Kinks before and between the plays, at a volume that keeps conversation down.

Credit goes to artistic director Paul Tei and David Nail for the immersive set, Nail for the darkly mysterious lighting palette, Matt Corey for the sometimes-ominous soundscape, and Deborah L. Sherman for costumes and makeup that define the “real” world of “Protest” and the theatrical one of “Audience.”

Though written later, “Protest” is presented first. Playing Vaněk, Fabregat goes to visit an old friend Stanek (Michael Gioia) at the latter’s comfortable country home. As a writer for state television, Stanek is in solid with the government; Vaněk, like Havel, is a dissident playwright with prison terms behind him.

The contrast between the two men is both superficial and deep. Stanek wears an elegant smoking jacket and slippers, sips brandy, urges peanuts on his friend. When a reluctant Vaněk gives in to Stanek’s repeated suggestion that he take off his old boots to wear another pair of the host’s slippers, we see a sizable hole in the toe of the ex-prisoner’s sock.

Vaněk’s mission reveals the deeper differences in the men. He has arrived with a petition urging the release of an imprisoned singer – who, as it turns out, is the father of the baby being carried by Stanek’s daughter. Vaněk has collected 50 signatures but wants one more: Stanek’s.

Under Tei’s direction, Fabregat stays cool, non-confrontational, observant, logical. Gioia’s Stanek, on the other hand, practically turns himself inside out trying to have it both ways: He wants the respect of Vaněk and his fellow dissidents, wants to use their courage for his personal purpose, but is unwilling to risk his security, despite his talk to the contrary.

There’s a brief mention in “Protest” of Stanek having seen one of Vaněk’s plays. So for “Audience,” director Theo Reyna places Fabregat and Gioia in the audience, where they watch another Vaněk piece inspired by Havel’s experience.

Here, the Brewmaster (Peter Joseph Smith) has summoned Vaněk (Noah Levine) from the chilly brewery basement, where the former prisoner is forced to work rolling beer barrels. Vaněk remains on edge as his brute of a supervisor pours him beer after unwanted beer, asking questions about his plays and one actress in particular. When the Brewmaster leaves to visit the bathroom – often, since his level of beer consumption is constant – Vaněk hastily tips the contents of his own glass into the foreman’s.

In conversation that is deliberately circuitous and repetitious, it emerges that the Brewmaster wants Vaněk to spy on himself, a job heretofore done by the supervisor. Always, the government is observing, recording, collecting potentially damning evidence. So why not eliminate the middle man?

Though the actors had to call for lines a few times on opening night, “Audience” is the livelier of the two pieces, viscerally as well as intellectually engaging. But like most significant plays, “Audience” and “Protest” transcend the specifics of time and place to speak to us – and warn us – anew.

‘Protest’ and ‘Audience’ by Vaclav Havel, Mad Cat Theatre Company’s production in the SandBox at Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores; through March 12, 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; tickets $30 (students, seniors and industry tickets $15, Thursday and Sunday only); 305-751-9550, www.mtcmiami.org or www.madcattheatre.org.

 


Leave a comment...
Must be Logged in
No one logged in. Log in
Leave a comment...
Was this helpful?
No Very

Captcha Image

About The writer

{module_webapps,16730,i,{tag_writer_id}}

When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..

With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..

With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..

After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, dancing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijoo is retiring from that company to embark on a new journe..

Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick is a storyteller. Her company Alma Dance Theater brings a particularly female inner world to the stage, through lush and sensual choreography. Nick’s..

Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perf..

May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pr..

One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..

The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..

Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..

From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..

Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and..

Revivals are hot on Broadway these days with “CATS”and “Hello, Dolly!“once again gracing the Great White Way. There is a certain nostalgia in taking a second or even third viewing of a belove..

What happens when urban dance style meets classical music? We’ll find out when Brooklyn-based hip-hop dance troupe Decadancetheater takes the stage, backed by Miami’s own experimental classic..

“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..

If even a modicum of redemption can be forged from the hellish after-effects of gun violence, we must listen to the communities most affected by the violence. To this end, “Trigger,” a hip-ho..

Celebrating 35 years is an amazing achievement for any dance company in Miami, but especially one founded in a decade better known for its ties to drugs than to the arts. Momentum Dance Compa..

For Tigertail Productions, April is the month of fire. Like their WATER Festival in 2016, this month’s FIRE Festival celebrates a single element in multiple art forms, including dance, visual..

During the month of April the organizers of the seventh iteration of the O Miami Poetry Festival intend every resident of Miami Dade county to encounter a poem or – even better – write one! An..

As the “home-grown” sweetheart of Miami City Ballet, Patricia Delgado is having her final performances this season before leaving the city and the company she loves to move to New York City.H..

Even people who can’t find Argentina on a map and believe tangos only happen in Paris know La Cumparsita’s iconic four beat opening. Like a bar’s last call, La Cumparsita tells tango dancers ..

Miami City Ballet will conclude its season this week with a rich selection of repertory pieces: two from Balanchine, in very expressive but distinct modes, and one from modern-dance master Pa..

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..

Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..

In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..

Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..

In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..

Not everybody who begins a musical career at age three singing in his grandfather’s Pentecostal Church finds his way to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Soloman Howard did in two short decades...

Singer-songwriter Tiago Iorc may have been one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets, but the word is getting out. Fresh from appearances in New York, Boston and Orlando, Iorc makes his South Flo..

Gustavo Matamoros’ beard has gone gray, but his passionate promotion of listening as a way of engaging the world remains fresh.Whether bats in the Everglades, shrimp in Biscayne Bay or the no..

Just about now, even as the unsuspecting may be lounging at the beach, classical music is thundering forth in Miami. Our town’s annual eight week Miami Music Festival has begun with its offer..

Talk of weddings can quickly split a friendly gathering into camps of pro and con. Those on the pro side retell the moment when the crying six-year-old ring bearer, stunned by the attention o..

What better way to welcome summer than with a burst of live music? Leave it to the French to come up with the idea. Since 1982, they’ve marked the summer solstice with free concerts and p..

Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade is as tiny as a house sparrow, with a voice as clean and pure as a bell. These delicate qualities belie a fierce inner strength and a steely artistic will. A..

Melissa Aldana is the first woman instrumentalist and the first South American artist to win jazz’s prestigious Thelonius Monk competition. Which distinction is more important to her? Neither..

Project 305 has a simple aim – crowd-source a Miami symphony. For 100 days from January 31 to May 12 New World Symphony, in collaboration with the Knight Foundation and the M.I.T. Media Lab, ..

El debut de Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) en noviembre del año pasado fué un acontecimiento artístico y un descubrimiento sumamente agradable. Una sola función en el Miami-Dade Cou..

El festival “Out in the Tropics”, patrocinado por Fundarte en conjunto con el Centro Cultural Español y el Miami Book Fair International, normalmente trae artistas del mundo LGBTQ e hispanoha..

La Gala anual de Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (CCBM) es un evento que esperan con ansiedad los aficionados al ballet en Miami y, sobre todo, los admiradores del estilo cubano. Desde su deb..

El 11 y 12 de mayo próximo tendrá lugar en el Miami -Dade County Auditorium el estreno en Estados Unidos de Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray(en español,Escrutinio: El mundo se ha ido a la deri..

Para el pianista y compositor cubano Omar Sosa la noción de una cultura global, sin fronteras, no es un concepto abstracto sino un tema personal. En su música, elementos de hip hop y rumba, ..

No hay que viajar a otro país para disfrutar en vivo de la música cubana del momento, la más innovadora, la que le da la vuelta al mundo. Basta con asistir a Global Cuba Fest, aquí mismo, en ..

Nadie como el bailarín y coreógrafo español Antonio Gades para describir el arte que lo hizo internacionalmente famoso cuando vivía: “Un extracto de fuego y de veneno, eso es el flamenco”. ..

Desde Las troyanas de Eurípides hasta “Guernica” de Picasso, o de la canción “Blowing in the Wind” de Bob Dylan al diseño de las gorras rosadas que llevaron miles de mujeres en las protestas ..

En un discurso de 1977, el escritor argentino Jorge Luis Borges desmintió la idea de que la ceguera fuera un mundo de oscuridad cuando describió su propia “modesta ceguera”. Hablaba de ciert..