Speaking softly over the phone earlier this month, Blanka Zizka’s voice was sporadically interrupted by a series of sudden, sharp noises in the background. Finishing a thought about “Adapt!,” the new play that will conclude the Wilma Theater’s 2016-17 season, she offhandedly explains, “What you’re hearing right now are the sounds of a whip.”
It turns out that one of the play’s characters enters the stage on a wheelchairlike chariot being pulled by eight men, requiring the actress playing her to practice her whip-cracking skills. It sounds like a complicated bit of stagecraft, but for the first time in her nearly four-decade career, Zizka has only herself to blame: “Adapt!” marks the longtime Wilma artistic director’s debut as a playwright.
Tracing the flight of a 22-year-old refugee fleeing socialist Czechoslovakia in 1977, “Adapt!” echoes Zizka’s own biography. Just as the playwright ended up finding her way to the Philadelphia theater community, her lead character, Lenka, is escorted into a dream world that mingles past and future, real and imagined. “I made up a lot of facts,” Zizka said, “but there’s emotional authenticity in the play.”