The importance of being deft


By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Steven Keim
Perkasie Theatre Co.
Sanford Meisner Theatre
164 11th Ave. (924-8699)
Equity Showcase (closes November 7)
Review by Doug DeVita

Yes...yes, yes, yes, yes! The Perkasie Theatre Company's production of Tom Stoppard's Travesties, the first in NYC of Stoppard's 1993 revision to his 1974 Tony Award-winning comedy, was an intoxicating evening of intellectually stimulating entertainment, proving that top-level theatre need not be bound by arbitrary geographical or financial boundaries.

Travesties is a memory play, springing specifically from the often faulty memory of Henry Carr, a minor official of the British consulate in Zurich, and it takes place in two time frames: in 1974, during Carr's dotage, and in 1917 during WW1, on the eve of the Russian Revolution. With liberal references to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest peppering the script, Carr's fanciful imagination incites a discussion on war, the arts, and politics between himself and three major modern thinkers: James Joyce, Lenin, and the Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara. In Stoppard's brilliant interweaving of fact, fiction, and classic Wildean witticisms, original ideas are expressed in a series of epigrammatic gems that flow with the luxurious fizz of Perrier -Jouet, 1889.

Under the expert direction of Perkasie's artistic director Steven Keim, the ensemble made light work of Stoppard's difficult verbal swordplay, dancing, singing, and flying over the dense linguistic minefield with a giddy, elegant verve and dazzling precision. Neal Arluck was sublime as the fatuous Carr, every move betraying an egocentric smallness in the presence of greatness.

He was more than matched by the deliciously overbearing Tzara of Kurt Elftman, an actor whose small stature belies a huge talent. Other outstanding contributions were made by David Aston-Reese as Joyce; Duncan Hazard as Lenin; Mary Aufman as Lenin's servant Nadya; and, especially, the delightful Amanda Jones and Carrie Brewer as Gwendolyn and Cecily, their musically underscored take-off on the famous tea scene from Earnest a genuine, hilarious highlight.

Sara O'Donnell's lovely period costumes, all in creams, tans, and soft yellows, were striking against Telford Scenic's spare, all-red set. With complementary warm-toned lighting and sound (uncredited), the overall effect was of a Russian Constructivist poster come to gorgeous, evocative life.

With little more than simple commonsense put to intelligent use, the Perkasie Theatre Company have once again proven themselves more than equal to their mission: to be an ensemble of theatre artists who present rich, language-driven, seldom-seen plays in an intimate setting. This dynamic production of Travesties has set a new standard, not only for Perkasie, but for the Off-Off-Broadway community as well. Da...da, da, da, da!
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita