Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Theather: The Urn on the Empty Stage

Author: Martin Čičvák
Original title: Urna na prázdném jevišti/Urna na prázdnom javisku
Director: Martin Čičvák
Genres: Drama, Comedy
Cast: Veronika Žilková, Lenka Skopalová, Ivana Uhlířová a Sára Venclovská
Time: 110 min
Premiere: 2 October 2016, Činoherní klub, Prague

     Three actresses of different generations and the opera soprano gathered together on an empty stage with the black urn in the middle of it. In the urn are the ashes of the great theater director whom they came to pay a last tribune to.
     The story line develops around the attempt to fulfill the director’s last wish: to spread his ashes on the stage. The increasing uneasiness and inability to agree on anything reveals the mutual animosity of the former love rivals.

About the author: 
     Martin Čičvák is a theater director and playwright from Slovakia. After finishing studies in Brno JAMU (CZ) he studied in Darlington College of Arts in UK. Čičvák is actively working with Czech and Slovak theaters, and was working as well in Slovenia, Serbia and Great Britain. In 2000 he became on the of the main theater directors in Prague’s Činoherní klub theater. Apart from play he is also directing opera. 

About the play: 
      The great director loved his actresses and they loved him back. He meant a lot to them and they were thankful for their carriers. Together with him they would like to bury the memories of traumas, failures and mutual hatred. What unites those 4 women is the ambiguous relationship to the deceased: on the one hand they admire him and thankful for the successful roles and mutual work; on the other hand they could not stand his authoritative attitude, they reproach him for love affairs and not able to fulfill their acting ambitions.
      The play is full of the stereotypes of the acting profession: inability to suppress your passions, naivety and foolishness, certainty of your talent and rightness. The most funny and most difficult for me were the parts where the actresses cites roles form old performances twisting together the actresses and her personage’s character. It is quite fascinating to watch how they project their roles on their relationship with the director.  

Stereotyped vision on acting profession:
Frankly only people who are working in the theater know what is going on behind the curtain. So most of the time people just guess and try to predict behavior of actors. This play is full of general clichés like stupidity and shallowness of actors and their uncontrollable strive for success. On the other hand we see the drama’s going on with insults, frustration and humiliation with which actor need to cope with and continue to perform their best. 
Gender inequality:  
On the surface comes out such a problematic issue as gender inequality in acting profession. Women are taken into consideration as “muse” in the best scenario and in the worst as mere mistress. The main characters do not seem to fight against this inequality and prefer to take the role of the mistress in spite of the cost. 

Final thoughts: 
      I really liked the play, thought I met some challenges while watching it. Multiple references to theatrical pieces as Macbeth, Medea and other were not so easy to gasp with my level of language. But I was able to grasp the allusion and references.
      Another interesting thing about the play is its genre: It is not clear what it is drama with hints of humor, comedy with dramatic set up. The playwright leaves the spectator to decide himself, but adding an extra twist with detective line.
      The scenery is very simple, to be more exact they consists of only black urn. And I like it. Nothing distracts from brilliantly written dialog between actresses, how they are trying to find common solution, quarreling, getting hysterical, accusing each other and then uniting in mutual hatred towards deceased. The dialogs are full of black humor and exaggerations.

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