Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Absurdist Play Starts Funny Ends Dark

Laurie Jerger and K. Brian Neel in I Never Betrayed the Revolution (Truman Buffett)
I Never Betrayed the Revolution
Through November 23, 2014

AJ Epstein directs a world premiere play that is absurd and deceptively simple. Playwright Christopher Danowski, a longtime associate of Epstein’s, writes short, simple, slightly humorous (at first) scenes of a pan-Slavic citizenry restive and oppressed by its government in I Never Betrayed the Revolution. We’re (overly) helped by scenic descriptor cards presented by a dour-faced, eyes black-lined, Kate Kraay, who exemplifies the severity of their mood. While the play could use more polishing, it has something important to say about governing.

Chris Dietz is a political poet, Letkov, whose subversive writing causes his disappearance from his love, Daleka (Laurie Jerger). She and Henryka (Susanna Burney) and Josef (Matt Aquayo), Alina (Ty Bonneville) and Januscz (Andy Buffelen) keep the faith and long for a world that is free. They want food, security, and the ability to have or at least grow what they need. Isn’t that what we all want, essentially?

K. Brian Neel is General Chuchelow, played as a haphazard, Funky-Chicken-dancing, crazy administrator who loves his desk, but is under the power of unseen governors. He exemplifies the Peter-Principle-executive (rising to his level of incompetence), easily deposed and just as easily, eventually returned to power.

As the short scenes pile up, the disconnection and the simplicity begin to slowly disappear, and a rather dark statement of government power begins to take shape. For a brief moment, Daleka and her idealists get a chance to take power, but they don’t know what to do with it. They have not planned for the moments after the power shift. They have not considered or calculated what skills might be needed for running a government or how to manage thousands of restive citizens.

The hope of the people is pretty palpable. The desires are relatively simple, yet, on a huge scale, much more complicated than a neighborhood or a town.

The inevitability of their downfall is clear, and the turn of the rotating governmental forces is well-greased. This reviewer felt pretty disheartened applying the lessons of the play to more than just Russia or Ukraine or Egypt, and felt that even the United States was implicated in the thesis of the script.

The cast does a solid job using a pan-Slavic accent and short moments to create memorable characters. Jerger portrays the heart of the script in an almost tear-producing way. The absurdity starts out being a bit cute and funny, but after a while, the darkness takes over. If that is what the playwright hoped to create, he is successful.

With a simple set, mostly of wall panel statues and a symbol-changing wall flag, Richard Lorig’s set keeps everything moving. Andre Nelson’s sound design and music choices are Slavic-government appropriate. Sarah Mosher’s costumes provide simple and effective visuals, and Epstein provides appropriate light design, as well.

The script is spare, so there’s a lot of personal effort needed to link what you’re seeing. If your reaction is different, please share your experiences and comments. For more information, go to www.westoflenin.com or http://neverbetrayedtherevolution.brownpapertickets.com/ or 800-838-3006.