February 11, 2023
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
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
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-
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele