Theatre and Dance releases ‘The Memorandum’

Tales of spies, paranoia and fear of government control commonly draw on the historical situations during which they were written.

Will Burdin, Victor Gurevich and Diana Rego appear in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance production, "The Memorandum."
Will Burdin, Victor Gurevich and Diana Rego appear in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance production, "The Memorandum."

Václav Havel’s Czechoslovakian satire, “The Memorandum,” was written in 1965 under the Communist thumb of the Soviet Union.

The Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance will perform “The Memorandum” from Thursday, Feb. 3, through Sunday, Feb. 6, and from Thursday, Feb. 10, through Sunday, Feb. 13, in the Players Theatre of the Stevens Building.

“The Memorandum” follows Josef Gross, the managing director of a branch of an unnamed organization.

Gross discovers that the organization has begun to use a secret code language called Ptydepe for communicating without the emotional connections of the native language. Complications arise when restrictions are placed on who is allowed to translate the language and the organization installs spies to keep tabs on all the staff members.

Director Patricia Skarbinski describes the play as an “absurdist black comedy,” saying the play “has both parts of the term ‘black comedy;’ it has the humor of the ridiculous as well as a poignant, darker tone.”

To get the actors involved in the roles, Skarbinski got them to imagine life in a “culture of surveillance” where they are always being watched. This allowed the actors to understand the need for selfcensure and limiting of their actions. Skarbinksi says, “Once they were in this mindset, they could then find a sense of humor about (the situation).”

While the play is a satire of the Communist control of Eastern Europe nearly 50 years ago, Skarbinski believes it still wtill resonate with audiences.

“We live in a polarized country,” she says. “Where (the United States) is divided by Democrats and Republicans, (Eastern Europe) was divided by those for and those against the government. But we are still accustomed to ridiculous, absurd events in the political arena.”

The absurd events of the play will be accompanied by other entertaining elements. Skarbinski has put together a large score for the play. She also describes the costumes and look of the show as reminiscent of the 1960s office style made popular by the television show “Mad Men.”

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased from the Stevens Building box office in the lobby of the Stevens Building on the DeKalb campus.

Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m. Friday and one hour before show times.

For more information, call the box office at (815) 753-1600.

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