So what do William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Tom Stoppard have in common? A love of words, words, words. And for this, we speakers of the English tongue should be immensely grateful.
Their love for our language has manifested itself in a witty and whimsical playfulness that can be shocking and occasionally even off-putting. Wilde’s contradictory epigrams, Joyce’s fondness for the Irish limerick, and Stoppard’s puns and word games are occasionally jejune, but a testament to the extreme range of their fulsome command of language, not unlike the Bard.
Like Shakespeare, Stoppard asks a lot of questions in this play. What is art? How does memory shape reality? Where do the lines between fact and fiction blur? Like Shakespeare, Stoppard is always showing us different sides of an issue, differing perspectives of the same “facts.”
Travesties is inspired by the movements that have shaped modern art: Dadaism, Surrealism, and Cubism. Like a Duchamp painting, Travesties is full of change and movement, reaching for a reality beyond realism, for a new dimension.
As with a Shakespeare play, we need to go along for the ride, give in to the poetry, and not try to understand every thought as it washes over us. As with a Shakespeare play, there is almost endless enjoyment to be had from close textual study – but a complete understanding (could such a thing exist) is not essential to our enjoyment of the work as a piece of live theatre.
-- Robert S. Currier