Notes from the Underground 

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is an unusual play, co-created by celebrated writer Tom Stoppard and acclaimed conductor and composer André Previn. It brings an intimate cast of actors together with the might of a full symphony orchestra to tell the story of Alexander Ivanov, a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, and of another Alexander Ivanov, a schizophrenic, forced to share space in a mental hospital. The former will not conform to government demands. The latter believes he commands an orchestra. Most theaters are unable to enlist the aid of an orchestra to produce a risky — if rewarding — obscurity like Every Good Boy. It's been produced twice in Memphis in the last decade. Here's what returning director Robert Hetherington had to say about the revival.

Flyer: What's it like coming back to a piece like this?

Robert Hetherington: With four of the original six actors returning, we aren't starting from nothing. This is a chance to explore things we'd only just begun to discover the last time.

This is a cold war play. The Soviet Union is no more. How does this change things?

Google "punitive psychology." You'll find links to stories about Vladimir Putin. He's former KGB. And just like Dick Cheney favoring waterboarding, he believes the old ways work. The Soviet Union is no more, but the bad old days are alive and well.

What have you discovered?

This isn't Peter and the Wolf. The orchestra is a character, and we're trying to integrate that more into the show. We're staking a claim that it's a metaphor for the conflict of individualism vs. conformity.

"Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" at Playhouse on the Square September 8th-10th. playhouseonthesquare.org

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