By: Ronnie Ruff
The Memorandum — Forum Theatre and Dance
The Memorandum, a biting commentary on bureaucracy and the silliness that can be its result, is Forum Theatre and Dance’s final production of its 2005-2006 season. The production is directed by artistic director Michael Dove and written by Vaclav Havel who is one of the twentieth century’s best and most respected playwrights. His association with the intellectual opposition to Stalinism in Czechoslovakia and subsequent imprisonment were followed by being elected to the presidency of the Independent Czech Republic. The Memorandum is his most accomplished work and a play that is a perfect example that theatre is always about politics.
The play is a grand parody of bureaucratic craziness, and central to the parody is the adoption of Ptydepe, a new language. The head of an unnamed agency, Josef Gross (Sasha Olmick) is blackmailed into going along with Ptydepe, a synthetic language designed to make office communications more effective. Office communication is “job one” in this madcap office…. What is the result of this drastic plan? An explosive breakdown in communication to say the least. It is the immeasurable force of bureaucratic absurdity that is captured in this very funny comedy.
An extremely funny and flowing satire, The Memorandum looks at our everyday power games, in this case those in the office. Gross is all alone in his objections to the new language — all the other office workers are on board with Ptydepe. Gross’s deputy officer, Jan Ballas (Alexander Strain) and his cohort, “Mr. P” (Jesse Terril) plot to take Gross’s job and send him packing.
Mr. Dove’s direction keeps Memorandum moving crisply throughout the production. Characters move on and of stage briskly, so briskly that it adds to many of the humorous situations. When Ballas and Mr. P take the stage their movements are almost comical due to their ROTC style marches about the stage. Also to be mentioned is the very talented Kate Debelack who portrays Hanna (the administrative assistant to Gross) who has a set time for everything including going to get milk, cookies and cigarettes. She spends most of her time brushing her hair with an aloof smile that had me in stitches. The entire cast seems to have a great command of the material in English and Ptydepe.
Forum’s set is composed of a wall of various metal filing cabinets and overhead florescent tubes that perfectly represent the standard government office. A few small desks finish off the set. During a few scenes the office workers take seats near the audience during classes to learn the new language. These are some of the shows funniest moments. As usual Forum provides a wonderful musical backdrop to the show that is exhilarating and pleasing.
If an Orwellian classic is right up your alley I would highly recommend Forum’s The Memorandum. Tightly knit and finely spun this is a show that tickles the funny bone while poking fun at government bureaucracy. All in all, it is a memorandum you can’t refuse!