101 pages
ISBN 0-88754-449-5
DDC C812'





Reviewed by Renate Usmiani

Renate Usmiani was Professor of English at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax.


In his introduction, Unjo Kareda describes Prague as “a political play, thriller, backstage drama, and slapstick comedy.” But it is considerably more than the sum of its parts. Beneath the theatrical fireworks we are given a gripping, often moving analysis of life under political oppression and of the subtle ways in which this oppression determines the life of the individual and of the community.

The play’s setting — backstage at the “Bread and Dreams Theatre” — combines the time-honoured symbol of life as a stage with the specific demonstration of the fight for artistic freedom in post-1968 Prague, as the company is engaged in an ongoing struggle with the Ministry of Culture. In this oppressive atmosphere, members of the company desperately look for escape routes. One tries to buy for herself a husband in the West; another has escaped already, into alcoholic stupor; the ingenue plans to retire to the relatively pressure-free role of housewife and mother. The main plot concerns the company’s artistic director, who has discovered that the road to freedom leads through the bedroom of the Ministry of Culture representative in charge of his theatre. A sleight-of-hand artist of the theatre, Krizanc takes his characters through a dizzying sequence of surprise effects and reversals, climaxing in the supreme irony of the ending, with the would-be enemy of the state unable to fend off the warm embraces of the powers that be.

This highly entertaining, often uproariously funny play grotesquely reveals the dehumanizing effects of the system. A remarkable achievement.


Krizanc, John, “Prague,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,