Chills are in store, from this production and from the permeating memory of its playwright's imprisonment, as we watch the unfolding of a caricature of office life-read, totalitarianism. Czechoslovakian writer Vรกclav Havel suffered the wrath of his government's take on his work-not surprising, as the parallels were obvious to even the most self-important official.
Josef Gross is any of us who has held a job. With the best of intentions, someone in his chain of command has decided to institute a new language designed to be immune from typesetting errors. But in practice the language-called Ptydepe-is comprehensible to only those with specific linguistic talents. And because its application is draconian, no good can result from its use.
Director Paul Millet intelligently captures the tone of the script: comedically outrageous but anchored in reality. His actors are uniformly outstanding, creating crisply detailed characters and making for exemplary ensemble viewing: Robert Stephen Ryan as the tightly wound Gross, Colleen McFadden as Gross' indifferent secretary, Robin Borovic as the spitfire chairman, Shon Little as the Harpo Marx-esque sidekick, Beans Morocco as the intermured staff watcher, Erica Sullivan as the Ptydepe professor, Jason W. Bohan as her perky best student, Avner Garbi as the bigwig head of translation, Justin Michael Carter as the cocky lead Ptydepist, and Jodi Shilling (alternating with Andrea Lee Davis) as the gentle typist.
Most notably, playing Jan Ballas, Heidi Yudis lists on her program bio that she teaches Linklater voice technique; Yudis' voice, which is free and interesting, is the best advertising for that course.
The imprisoned playwright? For those who don't know, in a hugely inspiring turn of events, 18 years after he wrote the play, four years after his last imprisonment, Havel became the new Czech Republic's first president. Says Gross in The Memorandum, "History has proved me right." That's the power of writing.