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Krizanc, John.

Toronto, Playwrights Union of Canada, 1987. 101pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-88754-449-5. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Louise Griffith

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

Prague by John Krizanc combines elements of mime, theatre of the absurb, farce, satire, and dark comedy to produce a bitter but effective attack on the repressive nature of the present communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

The setting is the stage of the Bread and Dreams Theatre in Prague. The director's father has just died following a prolonged period of interrogation by the secret police. Members of the company are preparing a new play for presentation in a few days. A new ending has been written but must be approved by the ministry of culture. The ministry is represented by Zuzanna Jancocova, an eager lady who approves the new ending after a brief liaison with the supposed author, who defects to the West by attending a writer's conference in Austria. She and Major Zrak, a police investigator, represent officialdom with its cruelty, stupidity, and readiness to dissimulate for personal safety. Eventually plans go ahead for presentation although no one believes that the director himself is the author. Members of the company with their wisecracks and mime antics provide entertainment and comic relief. References to "pissing," perhaps offensive in some communities, help to sustain the mood of tension and disgust.

While prairie and Atlantic province authors tend to write of people and problems in their own areas, this Lethbridge-born Toronto resident has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Czech friends to whom the play is dedicated. Current problems with the currency, the police, and ministry officials are presented with deadly accuracy and with a laugh in the great tradition of satirists.

This is a fine play that could be effectively presented by a talented group of skilled actors sparked by a wise director. As a play with a valid message, it merits wide exposure. Older students of modern history could profit by reading it in class, either as readers' theatre or as a text illustrating life behind the iron curtain. Librarians in high schools, colleges, and public libraries will want to purchase copies for their collections. Perhaps one day this talented writer will turn his attention to some of the problems in Toronto that also merit attention.

Louise Griffith, Agincourt, Ont.
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