"Mayakovsky and Stalin" perfectly dehumanizes its own themes

By Victor Kong

Daniel Dorr and Laura Liguori as Mayakovsky and Lilya
Photo by Ed Krieger

It is inevitable that there be no more apt moment in time to evaluate our reflections of the Stalinist regime than today. In understanding Russia and its dynastical approach to political machinations, the doctrines seem more central than their humanity.

Casey McKinnon and Maury Sterling as Nadya and Joseph Stalin
Photo by Ed Krieger
Mayakovsky and Stalin
, written and directed by Murray Mednick, takes two different figures of the Russian past, the great Soviet poet Vladmir Mayakovsky (Daniel Dorr) and Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin (Maury Sterling), and examines the evolution of their beliefs and how they have come to shape the ideology of their politics. In a tried-and-true Wellesian fashion, Mednick begins at the end and works his narrative backwards, showing the cynical end-of-life Mayakovsky, and the cultivated persona of Stalin, as they make proclamations on their principles to anyone who may listen. Mayakovsky is as impassioned with ferocity as Stalin is callous and automated. Both have programmed their lives to dogmata and that alone.

It is the dehumanizing affect of our obsessions with our political theories that Mednick has themed his play around. Stalin's wife Nadya, played by Casey McKinnon, slowly warps into lunacy as she realizes the futility of
Laura Liguori and Andy Hirsch as Lilya and Osip Brik
Photo by Ed Krieger
existence in a world where usefulness to the Soviet regime becomes the insurmountable livelihood. Her performance is captivating in its hysteria, a momentous relief from the desired automations of the rest of the cast. Laura Liguori and Andy Hirsch play Lilya and Osip, Mayakovsky's lovers and muses, the forces of his radical transformation and eventual languor.

In its diffidence towards humanization, Mayakovsky and Stalin does not seem to expect characters to produce depth or personality. It's that lack of emotion that allows us to see its characters as nothing more than a summation of all their philosophies. It is thematically challenging to execute, though Mednick has done it with calculating detachment-much to the benefit of its narrative.

Mayakovsky and Stalin
The Lounge Theatre
6201 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm (dark Aug 17) through Aug 19.
For tickets call (323) 960-4443 or visit Plays411

Posted By Victor Kong on August 02, 2018 11:37 am | Permalink