Cultural Affairs Correspondent
My Dear Readers and Friends, Greetings! The Easter season will soon be upon us, and with it the return of spring and all the emotion and memory it brings. The weather begins to waft us its flowers and perfumes, and to prepare us for the beauty ahead. We, too, begin to blossom, and leave the cares of winter behind us. A new, fresher blood enters our veins and our dreams.
A new play, too, has begun its run at the Wilma Theater, Blanka Zizka’s mesmerizing Adapt. Blanka, the Artistic Director of the Wilma, has both written and directed the play, and its subject is her own painful process of immigration and adjustment from her native Czechoslovakia. The word “immigrant” has an almost religious connotation for me as for so many of us, denoting as it does the great difficulties, physical and emotional, that all of those who leave our native country must endure to survive. This is all the more so now, as so many people from around the world seek not only a better life but simple refuge from the poverty, carnage, and terror that beset their birthplaces.
The protagonist of Adapt is Lenka, a young Czech girl who leaves Czechoslovakia in 1977. A decade earlier, the so-called Prague Spring had seemed to offer the hope of a better future, but this hope had been crushed by Soviet tanks in 1968, and a gray, dismal repression had settled over the country that had hoped to put a “human face” on socialism. Lenka finds no future in her native land, and her lover has been imprisoned. The Party bureaucrats who tyrannize the country are graphically represented as Orwellian figures who wear sows’ masks. At the same time, clothing that descends from the flies represents a wealth that is forever out of reach for ordinary citizens.
Urged on by a mythical figure in a chariot who appears to Lenka (played by the Greek actress Aneza Papadopoulou) and who represents the wisdom of the centuries and the undying hope for the future, she decides to seek freedom in a new land. The young Lenka (Czech actress Aneta Kernová) remains onstage while her older counterpart, “Lenka 35” (Krista Apple) experiences an unhappy marriage with a compatriot, Pavel (Steven Rishard), and quarrels with her younger self. The young Lenka retains her dreams and ideals through all the trauma of resettlement in America, and at last finds in a striking final scene the simple beginnings of a new and fulfilling life.
All the performers, some playing multiple roles, contribute to the success of the production, as do the many feats of light, sound, projection .and choreography that make Adapt a dazzling visual as well as dramatic experience. This a show for immigrants from everywhere, and for those of us whose task it is to welcome the new generation of them who often come to us with so little, and with such need of our generosity and compassion.
It’s always a special joy, of course, to recognize a compatriot of ours on the stage. Aneza Papadopoulou, a native of northern Greece, has performed widely in roles from classic theater (Antigone, Phaedra) to Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernardo Alba. Her powerful presence onstage anchors the play, and both Lenkas are particularly outstanding.
I asked Blanka Zizka after the show whether she felt that ancient Greek theater was one of her inspirations. “Absolutely, yes!” was her reply. “All the great ancient cultures inspire me, particularly that of Greece. Our modern theater is always connected to it.”
Blanka herself, as a creative artist, a woman, and an immigrant, is a treasure of our community, and her courageous exploration of her own journey is not to be missed.
To you, my dearest friends and readers, I send all my wishes for a Happy Easter.