Dealer's Choice – The winner of the Evening Standard Award for the best comedy of 1995, Dealer's Choice is the story of gambling passion, obsession and addiction. Every Sunday, the employees of a London restaurant meet in the restaurant's basement and become poker players. One day, however, a mysterious man enters, and an exciting game takes off in which much more is at stake than just cards. "If Gogol's players found it enough to fake a card game, throwing down practically any card that comes into their hands, the players embroiled in the snares of Marber's game are in a far more difficult position. The director in charge of their physical movements has to ensure that the speeches which accompany and comment on the actual card game in a highly specific and detailed manner correspond to the action on stage, around the table. (...) Realistic (indeed, naturalistically faithful) detail becomes something of a necessity when staging Marber's play – to the extent that the producers have to find some way of ensuring that the cards are properly dealt so that their order corresponds to the given speeches (...) Marber's play is also founded on a careful knowledge of the poker environment. He understands the psychological states of the players, and is able to transfer his observations and study into the construction of situations and dialogue," Petr Christov has written. The world premiere of the play was directed by Marber himself. He is already established as a playwright in the Czech Republic; his play Closer impressed at the Theatre international festival in Pilsen with the precision of its British acting. It was then performed, with the Czech title Na dotek, in several theatres. Marber's plays Don Juan in Soho and Howard Katz have been shown at the Vinohrady Theatre.
About the director of the play "Dealer' Choice": Jiří Pokorný (b.1967) – Studied at grammar school in Ostrava, working as a stage hand in the J. Myron Theatre and the NHKG before doing military service. After military service he started to study direction at AMU's theatre faculty in Prague. In 1993 he produced his graduation production in the Dejvice Theatre, Wallachian Quadrille, written under the pseudonym J. L. Fást. The production later transferred to the Drama Studio in Ústí nad Labem, where he started his professional directorial career. His productions here included Spring Awakening, The Professional Woman and a production of his own play, Dad Shoots Goals, the winner of an Alfréd Radok Award for best original Czech play in 1997. In 1998 he became the artistic head of HaDivadlo, where productions he directed included Moscow – Petushki, Faust – Faust is Dead, Fireface and Top Dogs. From 2002 to 2006 he was also the artistic head of the Theatre on the Balustrade. Previously, as a guest director at the latter theatre, he had directed Jelizaveta Bam, The Terrace and Ballad Of The Wiener Schnitzel. As artistic head, he directed productions including Mr. Kolpert, Push Up 1-3, The Farmer's Woman, Time to Love, Time to Die, W. Found The War Was In Him, Afterplay, Platonov Is A Scoundrel! You Can Believe Us, Troilus and Cressida, The Sandpit, Journey to Bugulma, Sarabande.
As a guest, he has also directed in the National Theatre (22 Anxiety Street, Top Girls, Bloody Baptism or Drahomira And Her Sons, Blackbird) and in the J.K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen – Fibich's opera Šárka and Ostrčil's Kunála's Eyes. He has also directed three productions at the Ta Fantastika Theatre, the musicals The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Němcova! and Mark Ravenhill's Product. In Brno's Reduta Theatre he has directed Kohout's play Eros, a scenic reading of Havel's first work, An Evening With The Family, and his own adaptation of the Hollywood film Sunset Boulevard under the title The Star Of The Silver Screen.
He has undertaken internships in Antwerp (1993) as part of the Tempus programme and at the Royal Court Summer School in London (1995).
In addition to Dad Shoots Goals, Jiří Pokorný has also written further successful plays, including Rest In Peace (Alfréd Radok Award for best original play, also shown in English translation at the National Theatre in London) and the libretto of an "unfinished opera", Milada. In 2010 his most recent play, Goddamn Car, appeared in the magazine Svět a divadlo. His plays have been translated into seven languages and performed in four countries.
It is most worth going to Dejvice for the actors. The play does not give them easy tasks – there is not much in the way of pronounced action, and in the second half the actors spend most of the time sitting around the table.
With the lack of a main role, the script is based mostly on mutual interaction, equitable playing into each others' hands and related (self)discipline, which under Jiří Pokorný's leadership the actors all achieve to brilliant effect. At the same time, each performance is unique, original and each undoubtedly stands by itself.
Kateřina Rathouská, MF DNES
Probably not since the golden era of the Drama Club, with Abrahám, Hrzán, Landovský, Kodet and others, the Goose on a String with Polívka, Pecha and Donutil or the Actors' Studio in Ústí with Bartoška, Heřmánek and Zedníček have we seen such a well-coordinated comic team. There is no point describing all the situations and gags, or highlighting individual performances or events. What is essential is the coordination, the mutual inspiration and above all the pure comedy with which all the actors are imbued.
Vladimír Hulec, E15
Pokorný's direction walks along a knife edge, sharpening relationships and situations and keeping everything in a state of permanent disquiet. All the men are in a permanent state of tension, out of which they help each other by means of ironising and attacks that they don't even mean seriously. Essentially, they are dependent on each other, but it is the wild pathology of emotions. In the second half of the production they play poker. It is not boring in the slightest, even if a large number of of technical expressions used. On the contrary, the director is excellent at gradating the card game, causing the action to become increasingly absurd and derailed. The players jump up like corks out of a bottle, and then fall to the bottom of their vain hopes. Only Trojan's Ash retains a true poker face...
It would not be right to reveal the ending, but it is a generally logical confirmation of what has been going on here all the time. Brilliantly, and with unusual teamwork, empathy, fierceness and unshowy sensitivity. All this was not born during this production alone, but is what is known as nurturing a style.
Jana Machalická, Lidové noviny