Caution: words at play


One look at the playbill for director Charles Newell’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties—running at Court Theatre through April 24—and you know you’re in for an evening of poetry, pastiche, and puns. The notes feature jokey typefaces, snippets of quotations, and free-association references to the play at hand.

The action takes place in the wandering mind of Henry Carr, a real-life figure although he didn’t have quite the life that Stoppard has given him, a minor official in the British consulate at Zurich shortly after World War I. The play opens as Carr, now in his dotage, recalls the famous men he has known or thinks he has known: Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, and modernist author James Joyce.

The real-life Carr did know Joyce, suing him after a Zurich performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Carr played “not Earnest—the other one,” Algernon Moncrieff. Stoppard uses that tidbit to structure his play, borrowing and revamping key scenes and plot devices from Earnest.

Which brings us to Court’s “other one,” its fall 2004 production of Earnest. Not only do key members from that cast appear in corresponding roles in Travesties (Lance Stuart Baker, who plays Carr, was Algernon, while Sean Allan Krill, who plays Tzara, was Earnest), but a similar frolicking choreography adds to the circus-like and circular movement of Stoppard’s own “Trivial Comedy for Serious People.”



Hey kids, let’s put on a show: Jay Whittaker as James Joyce, Lance Stuart Baker as Henry Carr and Heidi Kettenring as Gwendolen in Court Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Travesties (top); Algernon and Earnest by any other names: Lance Stuart Baker as Henry Carr and Sean Allan Krill as Tristan Tzara in Court Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Travesties (bottom).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

April 4, 2005