Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

The Memorandum 

What would happen if language were controlled by a bureaucracy?

Wednesday, May 30 2001
Vaclav Havel's 1965 play is a provocative farce about a bureaucracy's attempts to improve communication by introducing an artificial language called Ptydep into the workplace. But to maintain the pristine order of Ptydep and to prevent it from developing nuances and subtleties, the bureaucrats create an approval process that no employee can possibly navigate, effectively halting all business communication. It also becomes apparent that the language itself is impossible to master.

For a play about bureaucratic small-mindedness, it presents remarkably engaging characters. The cast as a whole is very talented, particularly the long-suffering, idealistic secretary Maria (Jennifer Dean), the ogrelike but intoxicating deputy director Mr. Ballas (Joshua Shabani), and the translation department's exuberant and impudent duo (Leah Abrams and Rob Dario). The exception is Keith Madden as the managing director, Mr. Gross; Gross is meant to have a weak, conflicted character, but at times Madden seems simply uneasy with his part. Though the play is about language, it is the characters' nonverbal communications that add life and humor. Even though most of the characters are two-dimensional, the caricatures are done with great conviction and ingenuity.

About The Author

Fiona Gow


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"