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Tom Stoppard’s Travesties: Theatrical Mayhem at Its Best

Tom Stoppard’s Travesties: Theatrical Mayhem at Its Best

“It may be nonsense, but at least it is clever nonsense”

Peter McDonald, Tom Hollander, Scarlett Strallen, Sara Topham

Peter McDonald, Tom Hollander, Scarlett Strallen, and Sara Topham Photo By Joan Marcus

Tom Stoppard’s 1974 Tony Award-winning play Travesties is being given a spectacular revival at the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre. This rollercoaster ride is an energetic, well-acted, joyous mayhem of delight. For those who don’t know this show, Travesties takes on the characters of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and humorously drops layers of history around them.

Tom Hollander

Tom Hollander Photo By Joan Marcus

Here Henry Carr (Tom Hollander), a character based on the British consular officer who in 1917 Zurich sued James Joyce (Peter McDonald), the Irish author, over a pair of trousers and tickets for an amateur production of “Earnest”, recalls his life. Joyce was in Zurich writing “Ulysses,” then titled “Elasticated Bloomers.” Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara (Seth Numrich) and Vladimir Lenin (Dan Butler) in his younger days are also in residence. Rounding out the cast is the librarian and Carr’s wife who also plays Cecily (Sara Topham) and Joyce’s scribe who also plays Gwendolen (Scarlett Strallen).

Sara Topham , Tom Hollander

Sara Topham , Tom Hollander Photo By Joan Marcus

“My art belongs to Dada,” along with other such clever wordplay, go around and round in a catacomb of literary reverie. Scenes strictly in limerick, a lusty rendition of the Soviet anthem, Shakespearean love sonnet cut up and reassembled, along with the erotic tension and music hall numbers, make up the madcap verbal pyrotechnics.

I would not be shocked if Hollander takes home the Tony for this role. His portrayal as both the older and younger versions of himself is a lesson in style and wit.

Patrick Marber’s direction is sublime and I could see him directing all those screwball comedies of the 30’s.

Stoppard twists actors’ tongues, but the arguments between Carr, Joyce, Tzara, and Lenin about the purpose of art is still relevant today.

Travesties: Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St.


Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email:

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