"AUDIENCE" Review By Noah Witke Mele for EYE ON THE ARTS
Audience, written by Vaclav Havel, a true revolutionary artist whose writings shaped the politics of his time, is a compelling political play with a delightful twist. Presented at LaMama the one hour absurdist work is invigorated by the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre’s exceptional puppetry.
Opening with a newsreel-style montage projected onto one of the huge projector screens that float above a sparsely dressed stage, the audience is loosely guided through the politics of 1968’s Prague Spring, a period of political upheaval in Czechoslovakia under their Communist Party.
As the film’s light fades, Vít Horejš—who performs as the play's protagonist, Havel’s alter ego Vanek, as well as serving as its translator and director—enters pushing a heavy wooden barrel. Heaving its top up a short ramp it rolls into a standing position as Horejš sighs. Something within the barrel makes a small sound and knocks its lid askew, and when Horejš investigates the impossible seems to happen: the barrel opens revealing the curled figure of the second performer, Theresa Linnihan in the role of the Brewmaster, who stretches her legs and belches cradling an empty beer stein to her chest. Most miraculous however is that the inside of the barrel is filled with tiny puppets that are brought to life by minuscule motors throughout the performance.
The handheld puppets bob about the stage, often changing hands in tightly choreographed and seamlessly executed routines that makes the technical nature of their craft seem effortless. As the play progresses the Brewmaster’s puppet gradually increases in size eventually dwarfing the tiny marionette of Vanek and plunking him into a stein of beer.
Linnihan’s performance is exquisite as she manipulates the increasingly larger Brewmaster puppets while talking in a robust voice punctuated only by the short and meek replies of Horejš.
Defined by repetition, the text swings back and forth between Vanek and the Brewmaster circling around the suggestion that the Brewmaster has been asked to spy on Vanek. This culminates in Vanek refusing to inform on himself which spurs an impassioned monologue from the Brewmaster about the state of working class and leaving him in tears before he comically drifts to sleep.
By balancing political weight and specificity with comedic sensibility, Audienceproves outstanding, and certainly upholds La Mama’s reputation for platforming excellent avant- garde performance.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele