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STAGE REVIEW

Works about assimilation, corruption add up to a vibrant 'Evening of Havel'

Molasses Tank Productions is not among Boston's most active small theater companies, but its latest production certainly places it among the interesting ones. The troupe has so far averaged something less than one show per year since its founding in 1998. And the current production, ''An Evening of Havel" at the Charlestown Working Theater, has appeared before. In 1999, Molasses Tank staged the same show, of two one-acts by Václav Havel, then the president of the Czech Republic.

''An Evening of Havel" is composed of ''Unveiling" and ''Audience," both of which received their first productions in 1976. Steve Rotolo directs them with intelligent efficiency, weaving the one-acts together with a scene change that is as artistic as it is absurd: The three actors in the first play simply march off, scenery in hand, and make way for the next play.

The works share a character but are otherwise independent. ''Unveiling" is the less successful of the two. In it, a married couple intimidate a close friend in their efforts to show off and get validation of the extensive remodeling they've done on their home. Michael (Sean Stanco) and Vera (Lyralen Kaye) share an enthusiasm for having improved their own lives that creeps into eeriness when they begin to make recommendations on how their friend Vanek (Jason Beals) can improve his. Stanco and Kaye generate a manic mix of boundary-crossing energy as they verbally pelt a wimpy Vanek, but Stanco tends to be more robotic than robust as the play unfolds. Kaye captures a better blend of sublimated desperation and humor, especially as portions of the dialogue are repeated in a bizarre spiral. ''Unveiling" examines the ridiculousness and the condescension present when unsolicited advice is really a thinly-veiled appeal for assimilation.

Beals also plays Vanek in ''Audience." And as in ''Unveiling," Vanek serves as the object of exhortation. ''Audience" follows a meandering conversation between Vanek and the foreman of the brewery where Vanek works as a barrel roller. The foreman (Tony Moreira), a hearty and liberal drinker, even while sitting at his desk, tries to convince the mousy Vanek to help maintain surveillance on the employees of the brewery.

Moreira is delightful in his role, delivering his lines with an athletic naturalism and punctuating many of them with a laugh that sounds a lot like one of the ''Car Talk" Tappet brothers'. More often than not, Moreira opts to communicate the endearing hopelessness of his character rather than the danger the surveillance poses to Vanek, resulting in an exchange almost too humorous to support the script's dark and quizzical ending. Even so, ''Audience" is an engaging snapshot of the blur between camaraderie and corruption.

''An Evening of Havel" features modest yet focused lighting, projections, and sound that give the production a vibrant feel: Havel's scripts get an aesthetic springboard from which to leap forth.

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