Theater Spotlight: Rock 'n' Roll

(L-R) Peter Moore, Jennifer Maren and Sasha Andreev
Petronella Ytsma

Tom Stoppard's drama about the 1968 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the quarter-century that ensued, concerns itself with the orbit of a Cambridge couple, their daughter, and a Czech student who returns to his home country with visions of glory and revolution only to find that things become complicated indeed. All sorts of passions are brewing—between the political and the personal, and in the effort to maintain transcendent hopes in the real world—but this production only intermittently grabs our lapels. Jan (Dan Hopman) is the Czech in question, and after he returns to Prague with his precious cartons of LPs he enters into a complicated give-and-take between idealism and reality, with buddy Ferdinand (Brent Doyle) as his primary foil. Much chatter ensues about the sporadically repressive Czech regime and its relationship to the big dogs in Moscow, with Jan increasingly holding out the (real-life) Plastic People of the Universe as a sort of meta-revolutionary pop group (even after his ass is thrown in prison for a spell). In Cambridge, Marxist professor Max (Peter Moore) deals with his terminally ill wife, Eleanor (Jennifer Maren), his daughter's young child, and eventually the ravages of age. This is a big play, bursting with ideas, but when we most need heart to carry us through, it turns out we have to wait for a while. Jan and Ferdinand spar with a paucity of emotional grounding, the years passing by in Jan's musty Prague apartment with little sense of time's gravity. Things improve in the second act, particularly in a dinner scene at Max's place, written at a less breakneck pace than earlier on, and clearly more of a comfort zone for the cast. Finally Max's granddaughter Alice (Jane Froiland) snaps over a salacious portrayal in the press of local recluse and Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett, and we get a sense of how things might have been. A play that heavily name-checks both Barrett and Vaclav Havel is one that is concerned with beauty, poetry, and how to exist in the ruins after the heel of history presses down hard. Here it's provocative, if performed with the edges all blurred. $15-$40. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; 651.291.7005. Through February 7

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