Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater's Mr. M Moves to JCC May 5-8

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Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater's "Mr. M" moves to JCC in Manhattan May 5 to 8

WHERE AND WHEN:
May 5 (Thurs) at 8:00 PM, May 7 (Sat) at 9:00 PM, May 8 (Sun) at 5:00 PM
JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue (between 75th & 76th Streets)
Presented by JCC in Manhattan in association with GOH Productions.
$15 members; $20 non-members
Box office 646.505.5708, www.jccarts.org

Mr. M's shadow is cast from a finger puppet. Ronnie Wasserstrom as Mr. M.
With "Mr. M," Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre performs the first American stage adaptation of "Mr. Theodore Mundstock," a story of the triumph of the human spirit by Ladislav Fuks, a postwar Czech writer of psychological fiction who achieved instant fame with that book, his debut novel. The drama, written and directed by Vit Horejs, is the latest in the company's "zivacek" plays, in which the cast is visible to the audience whether performing with or without puppets. ("Zivacek," which literally means "living," is the Czech expression for visible actors who act with puppets.)

The story is set in 1942 Prague, Germans occupy the country, and Jews await the dreaded summons to the concentration camps. Mr. M is an ordinary man trying to prepare for an unimaginable fate. Each day his panic mounts, goading him to the brink of insanity. To calm himself, he resolves to prepare carefully, simulating the camp environment in his tiny apartment, learning to sleep on a wooden board, hardening his mind against insults and strengthening his muscles against hard labor. The preparations bring on a sudden calm and with pride, almost joy in anticipation, he dedicates himself to helping his friends who might share the same fate. Where there is humor in the play, it's "Terezin humor," an expression connotating the dark humor that Czech Jews adopted in their cabaret at Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Author Ladislav Fuks came of age during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and ultimately wrote about it in his stories and novels. "Mr. Theodore Mundstock" ("Pan Theodor Mundstock"), initially published in 1963, was his first novel and made him famous almost overnight. The American version, translated by Iris Urwin and issued by Orion Press in 1968, introduced English speaking readers to a novel as rich and eccentric as anything by Fuks' fellow countryman, Franz Kafka.

The novel is being interpreted for the stage by Vit Horejs, Artistic Director of Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, who has been haunted by the story since his 1970s student days in Prague.

The production has been presented by Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., April 14 to May 1. It moves to JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, May 5-8.

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