Post-modern moments create confusion in `Memorandum’

Multitudes of newspaper-reading professionals spinning across a dark stage illuminated by pink spiraling lights with off-key merry-go-round music droning in the background.

Sounds bizarre, right?

This and many more puzzling post-modern moments occur in the GW Theatre and Dance Department’s production of Vaclav Havel’s 1965 play “Memorandum.”

Entering the surreal world of post-modernism, the Department of Theatre and Dance takes a risk by putting on a play that a general college audience may not be appreciate. But for those who can’t get enough of post-modern satire, “Memorandum” is one not to miss.

“Memorandum” takes a frightening look at the communist bureaucracy, complete with never-ending routines, emotionally numb workers and constant surveillance by a “watcher.” The story opens in a sparsely furnished office with towering file cabinets and miniature desks, seemingly symbolic of the workers’ insignificance in comparison to the larger system of management. The set is ominous and impersonal, making viewers uneasy as the plot unfolds.

At the beginning of the play, Mr. Gross (Zach Kaplan) receives a memo in an unintelligible language and soon discovers the memo is written in the new bureaucratic language. The new language is based on scientific method, designed to make office communication more precise. As Mr. Gross tries to translate the memo, he gets tied up in the complex bureaucratic system, which prevents him from finding out the memo’s meaning.

During Mr. Gross’ quest for translation, viewers are introduced to his colleagues, who are emotionally barren and slaves to the bureaucracy. Alysha Kahn and Sabrina Hyman give commendable performances as the unaffected office workers who ignore Mr. Gross’ desperate attempts to understand the memo. Annie Kramlinger, who plays Ms. Ballas, gives a convincing performance as the creepy deputy under Mr. Gross who ends up undermining his authority. Jessica Chadwell’s performance as Ms. Lear, the teacher of the new language, also is impressive as she chirps out lessons with an eerie frozen smile.

The actors deserve praise, but the repetitive cyclical plot becomes annoying to those without a strong taste for post-modernism. Long-winded and with an ambiguous ending, “Memorandum” is not for everyone.

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