HOSTINA U PETRONIA / PETRONIUS´S FEAST
Cast: 2 women, 17 men
The action of the play takes place in the twelfth year of the reign of Emperor Nero. Rome serves Jiří Hubač as a metaphor capturing the unfree, totalitarian past: a time of informing on other people, secret police, allegiance to authority, careerism, all-powerful government and the unpredictability of one’s own fate. Unrest and fear rule at Caesar’s court and throughout Rome. Nero’s extended arm, the commander of the Caesarean guard Tigellinus, governs the city. Caesar, who considers himself a great poet, is preparing to participate in a public poetry contest, together with his bodyguard and friend Ancius. Someone writes a defamation of Caesar in public on the wall and young Ancius is declared to be the author. Nero cannot forgive such an insult and leaves it to the poet Petronius to judge Ancius’s guilt. Petronius, although he knows very well that Ancius is innocent, in fear of his life agrees to Ancius’s condemnation. However, it is the commander of the Caesarean guard who is the writer of the provocative defamation. The hetaira Clivia, Ancius’s mistress and former mistress of Petronius, ascribes the authorship to Petronius in order to save her lover. Meanwhile, however, Ancius has committed suicide, so informing on the innocent Petronius has done no good. Petronius decides that pride and honour is worth more than life and in place of an apology sends a sharp, offensive letter to Caesar. Then he arranges a feast at his home. Just as a centurion and soldiers come to the house for him, he takes his life.
The whole play is confessedly some sort of coming to terms by the author with the period of totalitarianism, with the time of “the breaking of characters”, with the philosophy of what was known as the grey zone. How acceptable are the limits of collaboration with power to a free spirit? What is the ladder of values? In non-normal conditions, what are human feelings like love, friendship and tolerance capable of? (Jana Soprová: Hostina u Petronia nabízí alespoň hostinu hereckou, Večerník Praha, 4.11.1997)
The play is available in Czech original.