AUDIENCE, UNVEILING, PROTEST by Vaclav Havel, directed by Dean Gabourie, with Heidi Weeks Brown, Richard Alan Campbell, David Ferry, Adrian Griffin, Anthony Malarky, Michael Proudfoot and Dinah Watts. Presented by The Co. at the Victory Cafe (581 Markham). Runs to December 8, Thursday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 7:30 and 10:30 pm. $15-$20. 416-516-2103. Rating: NNNN
ever heard of the the stratford swivel? That's what festival artists do when they glance over their shoulder in a restaurant before gossiping to friends. It's also a well-practised private calisthenic in Audience, Unveiling, Protest -- except the gossip is political and the stakes are higher. Audience is The Co.'s clever blend of three plays by dissident Czech playwright Vaclav Havel, jailed for several years in the 70s and 80s and on the outs with the authorities after his release.A kind of memory play for Havel's fictional surrogate, Vanek (Richard Alan Campbell), the production intercuts Vanek's scenes with his brewmaster boss (Adrian Griffin), black-garbed, nouveau-riche friends (Heidi Weeks Brown and Michael Proudfoot) and a well-placed TV writer/producer (at different performances, Dinah Watts or David Ferry). Throughout the piece, characters eavesdrop on Vanek and make notes of his conversations.
Director Dean Gabourie has tightened the work's links and grim humour since the Fringe production, paralleling actions in each story and in the process making comments about the people Vanek deals with. The brewmaster guzzles his own product, while the producer elegantly sips brandy.
The cast -- including musician Anthony Malarky -- expertly captures the dark, absurdist comedy of the script. Watts particularly stands out as the upper-class casuist who builds a grandiose but hollow tower of solidarity in which only she can dwell.