Review: The Eden Game

Sam Beckwith finds much to enjoy in a staged reading of Jock Doubleday's Havel play

Launched six months ago, the Prague Film & Theater Center has quickly established itself as a vibrant presence on the expat cultural scene, breaking new ground with its events and productions. March 23's staged reading of The Eden Game, a play by Los Angeles-based writer Jock Doubleday, was no exception.


Held at Malé Vinohradské divadlo, this unusual production offered a Prague audience a chance to experience a work-in-progress with a distinctly Czech theme: Václav Havel.


The concept -- actors seated in a semi-circle, reading from scripts -- might sound unpromising but both the play and the performances were lively enough to make for an entertaining evening.


Heading a pleasingly diverse international cast, Scott Williams -- perhaps best known in Prague as the lead singer of Joy Division tribute band Dead Souls -- brings more than a touch of the tormented rock star to his portrayal of Havel, an unconventional casting decision that works surprisingly well.


Other stand-outs include Australian actress Kathryn Hume-Čvančarová as a psychologist with a secret and American journalist Grant Podelco as an avuncular-yet-sinister prison warden.


Although hindered by an over-complicated Brechtian play-within-a-play structure, Doubleday's script benefits from lively dialogue (lucky, really!) and the sheer novelty value of seeing familiar historical characters -- Havel, his wives Olga and Dagmar, and former Foreign Minister Jiří Dienstbier among others -- presented in a unashamedly amplified fictional context.


Straddling historical fact and outright fantasy in its portrayal of Havel's transition from imprisoned dissident to overstretched statesman, The Eden Game is occasionally a little too ambitious. Doubleday's depiction of post-1989 Prague -- particularly his characters' preoccupation with McDonald's -- can also seem a little obvious and simplistic at times. Despite that, there is much to enjoy in The Eden Game, a full production of which would be a welcome addition to Prague's English-language theatre scene.



READERS' COMMENTS


"Thank you for your review of the recent staged reading of The Eden Game.

I am looking forward to a full production of the play in Prague -- in both Czech and English.

Photos of the staged rehearsal:

http://waitingforvanek.blogspot.com/2012/03/on-march-23-2012-prague-film-theatre.html

My adventures thus far getting the play produced in Prague :)

http://waitingforvanek.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

A production of the first act of the play in New York State (before the second act was written):

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/10/nyregion/westchester-guide-204891.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

The play has also been adapted for the screen.

Thank you again for your cogent comments on the play.

Sincerely,

Jock Doubleday
Author of The Eden Game
http://www.jockdoubleday.com/"

April 3, 2012

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