Blanka Zizka – artistic director of the Wilma Theater since 1981 – boldly steps forth as both debut playwright and seasoned director of the semi-autobiographical ADAPT!
An Old Woman (Aneza Papadopoulou, a visiting Greek performer) arrives, pulled through the mist by eight lackeys on a chariot, bringing a forewarning:
“All is changing.
Nothing lasts forever.
You can’t stop time.
It’s running out.”
This sets an ominous cadence for the rest of the play. ADAPT! transitions through scenes, recklessly dipping in and out of consciousness, while a young Czech girl, Lenka (Aneta Kernova, a Czech actor), fights to hold onto to something she can still believe in. The audience is stuck on the brink of dawn, at the place where dreams become illusions and speed by too quickly.
Except for Kernova and Papadopoulou, the cast comes from the Wilma Hothouse Company, founded in January of 2016 and known for producing high-quality talent. This blending of international and local talent achieves a desirable authenticity, which is underscored by traditional ballads from the old country (sound designer Mariana Sadovska is also European) alongside American pop music.
Lenta relives broken shards of her Czechoslovakia life with her mother (Sarah Gliko) and father (Keith J. Conallen). She expresses her fervent desire to escape to New York City – home of artistic integrity and freedom – while simultaneously longing to be with her guitar playing boyfriend Marek (Jered McLenigan), who is imprisoned for possession of American pop art. Dream-like scenarios are interjected into this internal wrestling match amid seemingly real-life problems, creating a mysterious chaos that appears to be orchestrated by Old Woman.
The action is set against a singular concrete wall with barbed wire and two round, wooden doors (design by Matt Saunders). The doors forcibly swing open and close, announcing new arrivals and cuts in time – both real and imagined – that never resolve into something easily understood.
Subtle and not-so-subtle political commentary, like the uniquely designed pig-politician masks, weaves throughout. The commentary runs alongside bouts of spontaneous, orgasmic singing from an eye-catching American woman in red (Campbell O’Hara) – whose high pitch literally causes women’s clothing to drop in excess from the ceiling, leaving young Lenka dumbfounded. ADAPT! is a suspended, disjointed narrative echoing an irreconcilable brokenness inside of Lenka as she quests for an identity and lifestyle she is still actively deconstructing, one that is never fully known.
[Wilma Theater, 265 S Broad Street] March 22–April 22, 2017; wilmatheater.org.