Saturday, November 7, 2009

ACT's Rock 'n' Roll hits all the right notes

Take a marvelous script by Tom Stoppard, mix in a talented cast led by a pair of Seattle treasures, top it off with direction by Kurt Beattie, and you get a fabulously entertaining production of Rock 'n' Roll at ACT Theatre.

Anne Allgood and Denis Arndt shine. Arndt, as the Marxist college professor Max, ages 22 years in the three hours of the play. Allgood -- a most aptly named actor -- actually gets younger, playing Max's wife Eleanor, a classics prof, in the first act and their daughter Esme in the second. Arndt is a delightfully curmudgeonly old coot throughout. Matthew Floyd Miller is well up to the task as Jan, Max's student, who returns to his native Prague after the Soviet invasion of 1968, armed only with a suitcase full of rock albums.

Several other performances stand out. Peter Crook is Ferdinand, a Czech writer. Jessica Martin is a pistol as young Esme and, in the second act, Esme's daughter Alice. Alexandra Tavares burns up the stage as Lenka, Eleanor's poetry student who flirts with Max in the first act and, by the end, hooks up with him.

While it's set during the time of the cultural revolution in Prague and there are many discussions about politics, art, and culture, Rock 'n' Roll is really all about our relationships with ourselves and with each other more than it's about our relationship with the state. The play is a bit long, and occasionally a little preachy. But the pacing is right on and the performances so marvelous that the time flies wondrously. The poetry of Sappho and Pink Floyd is sprinkled liberally throughout, and the show ends at a Rolling Stones concert in Prague in 1990, with everyone living pretty happily ever after.

Weisenheimer has had a thing for Stoppard ever since reading and seeing a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead while in college. Rock 'n' Roll does not disappoint.

No comments: