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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Rock 'n' Roll

Also see Susan's review of Heroes

Washington is currently experiencing a small Tom Stoppard festival. The Studio Theatre's engaging and thought-provoking production of Rock 'n' Roll joins Heroes, Stoppard's translation of a French play at a theater across the Potomac River in Alexandria, and the Folger Theatre is about to host a production of Arcadia.

Director Joy Zinoman, who is also the founding artistic director of Studio, has chosen the smallest of her three theaters and in-the-round staging for Stoppard's intimate epic of politics, freedom and music from 1968 through 1990. If the goal of the Prague Spring, the 1968 liberalization of Czechoslovakia later crushed by Soviet troops, was "socialism with a human face," Stoppard is trying to present ideology with a human face—and he succeeds beautifully.

The main conflict is between emotion and intellect: the heart of the drama is Jan (Stafford Clark-Price), a Czech graduate student at Cambridge, while the brain is his professor, a bookish Marxist named Max (Ted van Griethuysen). Where Jan believes that Communism can mean freedom, Max is determined to believe in his theories at the expense of looking at real-life experiences. He criticizes the Czechoslovakian government for moving away from Soviet authority and supports the ensuing crackdown.

What makes these interactions more than just intellectual dialogue is that Jan sees music rather than politics or economics as the vehicle for liberty. As life in Prague becomes increasingly restricted, he can still escape with the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and a homegrown group called the Plastic People of the Universe.

While the two lead actors, comfortably physical Clark-Price and rigid van Griethuysen, provide the central dramatic tension, the linchpin of the performance is the lovely and moving Lisa Harrow, who plays Max's wife Eleanor in the early scenes and later Max's daughter Esme. These women don't care about theoretical puzzles; they're fighting for their lives and yearning for personal fulfillment. Harrow's performance is studied yet subtle: her bone-weariness as Eleanor evaporates when she takes over the role of Esme from young Katie Henney, and the two performers share a tone of voice and a look of wonder.

Studio Theatre
Rock 'n' Roll
April 22nd May 31st
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Joy Zinoman
Milton Theatre at The Studio Theatre, 1333 P St. N.W.
Washington, DC

In Cambridge:
Piper: Adam Pribila
Young Esme: Katie Henney
Jan: Stafford Clark-Price
Max: Ted van Griethuysen
Eleanor: Lisa Harrow
Gillian: Sarah Strasser
Nigel: Richard Price
Lenka: Caroline Bootle
Esme: Lisa Harrow
Alice: Katie Henney
Stephen: Jay Sullivan
Candida: Emily Townley
Deirdre: Sarah Strasser

In Prague:
Jan: Stafford Clark-Price
Interrogator: Lawrence Redmond
Ferdinand: David Agranov
Max: Ted van Griethuysen
Milan: Alex Zavistovich
Magda: Veronica del Cerro
Policemen: Lawrence Redmond, Michael Wright
Nigel: Richard Price
Waiter: Lawrence Redmond

The Band: David Chandler Hasty, Adam Pribila, Jay Sullivan, Alex Vernon
Ticket Information: 202-332-3300 or www.studiotheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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