Performance Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Wilma

Rock ‘n’ Roll
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Blanka Zizka

Tom Stoppard has said that all stories are secretly about time. What began for him with a photograph of an aging, paunchy, hermetic Syd Barrett (the late, mad founder of Pink Floyd) eventually became Rock ‘n’ Roll, a play that he has said is "partly about Communism, partly about consciousness, slightly about Sappho, and mainly about Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1990." Sounds like a lot to take in, but Stoppard’s most recent — a 2008 Tony nominee for best play and one that the New York Times said was arguably Stoppard’s finest— is a deeply human story and thought-provoking paean to a Czechoslovakia in upheaval, the lives (inner and outward) of those who peopled it, and the music and musicians who became the provocateurs, as well as anodynes during those turbulent times.

Actors Barnaby Carpenter, David Chandler, Mary McCool and Kate Eastwood (especially Kate Eastwood) deliver superb performances with an equally impressive supporting cast. Matt Saunders’s set is succinct and utilitarian, providing these hard-working actors with the perfect space in which to tell Stoppard’s story. And what better soundtrack to carry Rock ‘n’ Roll along than recordings of Syd Barrett, the Plastic People of the Universe, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, the Doors, the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, U2 and the Cure.

Richly satisfying, emotionally charged, entertaining and moving, Rock ‘n’ Roll is a vital play that is as important as it is timely. Hats off to Blanka and Jiri Zizka for a stellar opening in this, the Wilma’s 30th Anniversary season.

Through October 26th. Tickets $47-$60.