Monday, April 30, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: Travesties

By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Patrick Marber
Roundabout Theatre Company
Through June 17

By Lauren Yarger
The first scene of Tom Stoppard's Travesties, getting a Broadway run by Roundabout Theatre Company, is all in German and the audience has really no idea who the characters are or what is going on. When the language switches to English, the situation doesn't improve much, unfortunately.

A hodgepodge of characters, among them Lenin (Dan Butler)and James Joyce (Peter McDonald) emerge in the memories of  Zurich during World War I as remembered by an old man, Henry Carr (Tom Hollander). Hollander and McDonald reprise their roles from the Menier Chocolate Factory production which sold out in London's West End, also under the direction of Patrick Marber.

Lenin and Joyce clash with Tristan Tzara (Seth Numbrich), founder of Dada, an avant-garde movement of the time that revolutionized the art world just as Lenin's socialism was transforming governments. They get romantically entwined with Cecily (Sara Topham) and Gwendolyn (Scarlett Strallen) in a case of mistaken identity a la The Importance of Being Ernest (Carr is obsessed with the other guy, Algernon...). Cecily is a librarian in the Zurich library (designed by Tim Hatley, who also designed a period costume for each character).

There is a bunch of philosophy about art, politics, thoughts on perception from an aging memory and even some song and dance thrown in to the mix (Original Music by Sound designer Adam Clark and Movement by Polly Bennett), but it never blends together to form a cohesive work. scenes are repeated (we get that Act-One opener later in English), but nothing seems to click and a play that seems to want to be funny at times, really isn't.

"What is the meaning of this?" Joyce asks about Dada.

"It has no meaning. It is without meaning as Nature is. It is
Dada," responds Tzara.

I guess I could just say this play is Dada. Or maybe I am just really tired of revivals with lots of male characters who don't seem very relevant.  I don't think I was alone. At intermission, in the women's rest room, there dead silence. Let's just say normally you hear chatter about the show as women wait in the very long lines for the the stalls. In the restroom at American Airlines Theatre, you could hear a pin drop. Finally a woman ventured, "You have to really focus. . ." There was no reply.

To be fair, there were some people in the audience who seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely and laughing at lines whose humor was lost on me. A song between Gwendolyn and Cecily had a few amusing twists but was interminable -- like this play which clocks in at two hours and 30 minutes, but feels like about four.

Opal Alladin as Nadya and Patrick Kerr as Bennett, round out the cast of this productions, which plays through June 17 at American Airlines Theatre,  227 west 42nd st., NYC.

Additional credits:
David Brian Brown, hair and wig design; Meil Auston, lighting design.

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexually suggestive movement/suggestion

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2024 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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