A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley
nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 15, 2004
Created and performed by Silvian Centiu, A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley is the true story of a man’s picaresque journey from life in Ceausescu’s Romania to happiness and success in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley. Directed by Kenneth Vandenberg and assisted by Simona Nan, Centiu tells a riveting and passionate tale about his stunning tenacity and determination to make a better life for himself.
Centiu bitingly describes life in Romania in the 1980s, where people use humor as a way of dealing with food shortages, rationed electricity, and the many other problems of living in a totalitarian state. As he grows, Centiu realizes that the fictional jokes have become true anecdotes. When his girlfriend is raped by a government official, and commits suicide after she is raped again for reporting her assault, for Centiu, “the joking ends.” He plots to assassinate Ceausescu with friends, and reluctantly flees after it becomes too dangerous to stay in Romania. He dodges bullets at the border, crosses Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, and makes his way to Vienna. There he survives on approximately 30 cents a day and applies for a visa to the United States. While waiting, he raises money to get supplies of food and medicine into Transylvania during Romania’s civil war. His witty tale about convincing a truck driver to drive into Transylvania at night (because the roads would be safer), carrying a truck full of canned blood, is hilarious.
For the rest of the show, Centiu wryly and wittily comments on his fish-out-of-water adventures as he adapts to life in the western world. His stories are funny and heartfelt as he deals with such issues as telephones, cars, resumes, and convincing computer companies to hire him. Once hired, he has a comical struggle to explain to his employers how some Romanian words may sound like American profanity, but are in fact just simple verbs. Most amusing are his stories about how he learned to speak English, which may be the highlight of the show.
The lighting is sometimes distracting and the story ends all too suddenly, but that is rectified by an informal Q and A where he is able to answer some of the dangling questions. A Transylvanian in Silicon Valley could, and should, be expanded.
Centiu’s lack of patience and fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants attitude has led him across the world to achieve the plan he devised in the mountains before he fled Romania: with education, experience, money, and allies, anything is possible. “The larger the ocean,” he tells the audience, “the more exciting the adventure.” His realization of the American Dream is both funny and inspirational. Frank Capra would be proud.