Václav Havel plays offer a good night of theater


Through May 18. $15-$20; call 800-838-3006 or visit www.jcceastbay.org.
Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut (at Rose), Berkeley

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Each of these three semiautobiographical shorts by Czech dissident Václav Havel contains the same protagonist, Ferdinand Vanek, an activist playwright who is less a character per se and more a dramatic principle of morality. In the Kafkaesque short, "Audience" (the weakest of the bunch), Vanek (Craig Souza) works at a brewery and his boss (Jeff Thompson) engages him in a spiraling drunken conversation about the mounting pressures of an omnipresent "they" watching over operations. Thompson works himself into a paranoid mess, but it is frustrating to navigate his character's absurdist dialogue. The second play, "Unveiling," is delightful and very funny, as Vanek finds himself having drinks with a couple (Amanda Krampf and Wylie Herman) obsessed with image and material possessions while being hilariously disdainful of his poor writerly lifestyle. The third and most powerful offering, "Protest," gives a view into the articulate and guilty mind of a TV producer (Craig Dickerson) who secretly sides with Vanek's political dissidence. Dickerson is a tour de force of anguished tics and pauses, and captures Havel's theme of navigating difficult moral choices, capping a truly engaging night of theater.

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