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.
I am looking forward to a full production of the play in Prague -- in both Czech and English.
Photos of the staged rehearsal:
My adventures thus far getting the play produced in Prague :)
A production of the first act of the play in New York State (before the second act was written):
The play has also been adapted for the screen.
Thank you again for your cogent comments on the play.
Author of The Eden Game
April 3, 2012
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