You know how we are always talking about the Bolshevik Revolution?
Well, this play is about how it got started! Or ended? This is before it started, actually. I think?
Let's start at the beginning.
I have spent a lot of time at Oracle Theatre. They are a proud group of guys and gals that put on good plays and are dusting your theatre with technology. They are way ahead of you as far as use of technology in theatre goes, unless you are the Goodman or Blue Man Group. So it was disconcerting to walk into the theater and see lots of work tables and tons of actors dressed up like poor people sleeping everywhere.
"What the hell is this?" I said to the usher. It was sort of like I was in a work camp. I thought those were only in the Holocaust in Germany, so I thought that was where this play was set. There was this blonde lady dressed up like Else the Nazi from Indiana Jones (an incredible and chilling DeChantel Kosmatka) , and she was sort of walking around and telling these actors in poor people clothes to stop sleeping.
They were walking on these tables that are all over the theater. Stepping over our heads. On the screens are projections of worker camps. Sick people on the screens, mean people on the tables. No drinks. "This is like a slow Tuesday night at Coyote Ugly, eh?!" I joked to a stranger next to me. No answer.
"Take off that Nazi uniform!" I screamed at Else from Indiana Jones. No answer. "Oh great." I laughed to another audience member, "This broad is stay in character for this whole show." Again, no answer. Am I even alive? Is this a dream?
Then they closed the door and the show started!
It started with this incredible song. I mean, it was really beautiful. It was about all the problems that these people have. Now, there are tons of people on stage. They are all dressed like Oliver with the gloves and grubby hats.
* A note to all costume designers- If you want to show us a poor old-timey white person, they MUST have fingerless gloves.
So these guys are all singing about the problems in Russia (not Germany) and how poor they are. I don't know anything about Russian history, really so this was pretty interesting. What sort of problems do they have?
Once the song ended and the dialogue began, one lady (a super attractive for a poor old mother Katherine Kebelein) explained to us that she only had a little tea left, and that if she had to make tea for everyone, it would probably be a little weak.
"What the hell? Is this going to be a show about white folks complaining about tea? Come ON."
But no. See, her son is a leader of this group that hands out leaflets to people at worker camps. The leaflets say things like, "Rise Up, Workers" and stuff. I am not totally sure why, but I think they weren't being paid well. Or they made them be there? Should you revolt from a place that you don't even have to be at?
Well, it sort of got me thinking about the leaflets. These little flyers that they are sneaking to people. These were often called "propaganda" because they spoke for a side of a political party. So it made me think about....what if we had propaganda things nowadays? They would have to be internet memes. So I made a few to show you what they are a little better.
People would really get behind this one:
and now that we know that people love cute animals more than crazy pictures of Stalin, this would have been better:
and this one would still be useful even today:
So basically, these poor factory workers were spreading memes all over town and teaching people to read (which is an important step in the spreading of information), and the other political party were so sick of it, they decided to kill them.
So that's what this play is about. It sounds heavy, I know. It WAS heavy, but it is also a Brecht play, so there are songs and familial relationships that make it seem...almost cartoonish in the best possible way.
Brecht (if done correctly) can tell us huge, complicated stories with standard 2 Dimensional characters. The names, the movements, the non rhyming songs, are all tools he uses to make everything seem familiar. That is why he has survived and also why people still love to do his work. Except for Mother Courage, because that play is boring as shit.
These characters are larger than life and symbolize all of our struggles for all generations, not just these Bolsheviks.
Max Truax has cast this thing perfectly. The voices, faces and table walking abilities are second to none.
I wouldn't have minded a live band, but who am I? Burt Reynolds? I don't need a live band everywhere I go.
Go and see this play. Seriously. It is a really good time, disguised as a lousy time. Also, they hand out free paper at the end.
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach