Drawn from the author's own experience, the play tells of the return to Czechoslovakia, in 1974, of a former college drama professor, Vince Corey, who is researching a book (begun during a visit five years earlier) on the explosion of artistic creativity that flowered under the now overthrown, liberal Dubcek government. Accompanied by a young student, Dooley, the professor is shocked to find that the free speech and artistic freedom that he encountered on his earlier visit have been crushed by the Soviet masters who have taken over the country. In a series of vivid, yet often brightly funny scenes, Vince and Dooley look up a succession of Vince's former friends and contacts, including his translator and her husband; a great actor now reduced to doing propaganda films; a shamed but nervously helpful government functionary; and a brilliant writer whose resistance to authority has led to his virtual banishment from society—all, in the New York production, played by the same actor and actress. While humor abounds as the two move from one sharply etched encounter to another, the play also offers a thoughtful and moving comment on the nature of oppression, artistic and otherwise, as the two Americans begin to comprehend the fear and suspicion that their friends must now contend with, and the dreadful grayness that descendeds on their once promising lives when the famous "Prague Spring" gave way to "Prague Winter."
The last play by a writer who, in his tragically brief lifetime, became one of the most popular and admired playwrights in the American theatre. Produced to critical and popular acclaim by New York's famed Public Theater, the present play embellishes the antic humor of the earlier plays with a more serious theme: the tragic oppression of the Czech people—and particularly its artists—after the overthrow of the Dubcek regime. "It is a lovely work…heartfelt and personal in a manner that shows impressive growth…" —Drama-Logue. "…a work which meets with enthusiastic audience reception…There are laughs, to be sure, and plenty of them…" —Variety. "…characters hilariously funny, but with heroic dignity and an edge of sadness." —NY Daily News.