LARGO DESOLATO and PROTEST, TinFish Theatre. "Sterility and intrigues, intrigues and sterility," sighs a character in Protest, summing up the bleak theme of both these Vaclav Havel one-acts, being staged in a single evening by TinFish. Like many of his early plays, the 1979 Protest and the 1984 Largo Desolato reflect the morally debilitating effects of censorship and repression during the Communist era in Czechoslovakia.
Given the changes of the past decade, these plays are better seen as worthy museum pieces than contemporary cultural criticism. Tom Stoppard's excellent translation brings out Havel's gift for representing the corruptions of timidity and accommodation in minutely detailed individual portraits. However, directors Maria Muller and Kerstin Broockmann are perhaps too worshipful of Havel's every word and gesture, setting a leisurely pace that slows his satiric energy. This forces the actors into awkward, highly symbolic gestures that leech the urgency from the characters' interactions and dull the plays' political sharpness.