Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” is a remarkable juggling act: a character study masquerading as a comedy of manners masquerading as a play of ideas. Framed by the unreliable narration of the aged Henry Carr (Lance Stuart Baker), the play depicts the imagined interactions of James Joyce (Jay Whittaker), Tristan Tzara (Sean Allen Krill), and Vladimir Lenin (Tim Donoghue) in wartime Zurich. “Travesties” showcases Stoppard’s pyrotechnic skills with language: the players (including Heidi Kettenring and Cristen Paige as the two objects of these disparate geniuses’ desire) rattle off demented limericks, debate the essence of Dada in the form of a Catholic catechism, and allude casually to the history of English drama from Shakespeare to Wilde, with a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan. The play is less successful in its earnest debates over art and politics. The appearances of Lenin, in particular, are almost perfectly correlated with lulls in the play’s momentum, as if Stoppard wanted to prove indirectly Tzara’s claim that art should remain free from social concerns. Charles Newell’s revival of his 1995 production at the Court hits the play’s high points with an infectious enthusiasm, abetted especially by John Culbert’s clever, Borgesian set design and Baker’s impeccably timed performance. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.