nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
November 5, 2006
Redevelopment, one of Vaclev Havel's most recent plays, tells the story of a group of architects who have been charged with redesigning a slum. Holed up in a castle above the town, the architects design and redesign, unable to accomplish much, as their governmental orders keep changing. Of course, not everyone is a fan of the proposed redevelopment. The slum's residents petition the architects to consider their ideas as well, but are jailed for speaking up. One of the architects, the young idealistic Albert, is suspected of helping the protesters write their petition, and is thrown in the castle's dungeon as well.
The architects, however, seem more concerned with their love lives than with the oppressive leadership. Nearly all the men seem to be in love with a middle-aged siren named Luisa, who flirts with all of them, but falls for the much younger Albert after he confesses the depth of his love for her.
Redevelopment has the benefit of a very talented cast; first-rate performances are given by Patrick Zeller as Albert, Shad Ramsey and Ric Sechrest as both the village delegates and the project's inspectors, Mark E. Macken as the Special Secretary, and Tracey Hostmyer as Luisa (though the talented Hostmyer seems about 15 years too young for her role, which greatly distracted me).
Though I feel the play has the potential to be quite engaging, I had a lot of difficulty with this production. Havel's comedy seems to be sucked out of the play (except when the excellent Shad Ramsey is on stage), and the pacing seems very slow. There are also a few touches that, frankly, I didn't get: One, a rotating dinner table that the actors turned around with their feet; and the other, the actors plucking some invisible thing away from their bodies from time to time. I'm not sure if these notions come from director Grant Neale or from Havel himself, but either way their purpose is unclear.