Jenna May's Reviews > Travesties

Travesties by Tom Stoppard
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Nov 05, 2011

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Read in November, 2011

While riding public transit, wading through the final sequence of this play that involves Lenin, a voice from my left blurted out, "That's a really dense play."

The voice to my left ended up belonging to a young actress who had not made it through said "dense play," but we had a bit of banter about it, nonetheless. As much as I enjoyed the play, I can easily see how a less stubborn (or hopeful) sort of person might not make it to the end.

The play is dense, to be sure, but it's also a great deal of fun (when it's fun). There are more than a few very long talk-y bits that would require an absolutely arresting performance to keep an audience's attention, and tended to lose me on the page. That said, in any of the scenes where the dialogue is equally shared between two or more characters, the play is an absolute triumph. It's a sort of candy dish of in-jokes for people who have read a lot and/or studied a great deal of theatre/art/philosophy. I did laugh out loud more than once reading it. I also rolled my eyes more than once.

Perhaps this could be considered a spoiler, but Tristan Tzara, James Joyce, and Lenin are all characters in this drama. In my opinion, I found all bits involving Lenin and his wife to be supremely uninteresting, plodding, distracting, and they watered the play down quite a bit for me. Lenin is discussed enough in the play by other characters, that his actual presence seems like overkill--with a dull knife.

Tzara and Joyce, on the other hand, were marvelous. There are some wonderful devil's advocate sort of arguements about art and its place in society, etc, and Stoppard does wonderful things with form surrounding both of them, as well. What really kept me reading, apart from feeling, "I've come this far, I really ought to finish", was the constant hope that there would be another clever, delightful, conversational scene on the next page. Stoppard managed to string me along by placing these pleasant tidbits at the exact right spots to keep me from throwing in the towel (after one of the aforementioned long, dull, talk-y bits).

If you like Stoppard, Politics, Shakespeare, Joyce, Wilde, Dada, pastiche, Socialist history, or even just one of these things, you will enjoy the play.

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07/03/2016 marked as: read

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