Mayakovsky and Stalin

Critics

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77 %

Reviews: 13

Audience

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Reviews: 0

Wed Jun 19, 12:00am

The newest work from legendary poet/playwright Murray Mednick is a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos to explore two distantly connected relationships: that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his wife Nadya, and of Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his married lover and “muse” Lilya Brik. “As Murray Mednick experiments with language… he is emblematic of a Los Angeles dramatic tradition in much the same way that Clifford Odets is identifiable with Gotham or David Mamet with Chicago” –Variety. July 21 – Aug. 19; Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038; $25; (323) 960-4443 or www.plays411.com/stalin

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Reviews

Leigh Kennicott
"Padua Playwright Murray Mednick serves up a dish of memories of the Russian Revolution from the immigrant community where he grew up. As his narrator, Max Faugno is masterful as Mednick, at other times playing Stalin's henchman, Kirov, and other fixers, to tell the stories of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (Daniel Dorr) and the dictator, Josef Stalin (Maury Sterling). Although his character sketches vividly breathe life into these long-ago comrades, both stories refuse hard cause-and-effect narratives, and therein lay the difficulty following Mayakovsky and Stalin as a play."

sweet-sour - Leigh Kennicott - ShowMag - ...read full review


"Whether a commentary on past events or a forewarning of things to come Mednick has nevertheless mounted a solidly-staged, well-crafted production, one that is as impressive as it is challenging."

sweet - Ernest Kearney - www.thetvolution.com - ...read full review


"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."

sweet - Victor Kong - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal
"There are plays that tell a story and there are plays that ponder ideas. Murray Mednick's latest world premiere MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN is the latter, an intellectual dissection of two Russian revolutionaries who were as integral to Eastern European history as beets are to borscht. But in Mednick's drama it is their thoughts that are under the microscope, or what he imagines their thoughts to be, rather than their actions. For, as his Chorus (Max Faugno) reminds us, "We know next to nothing of the past.""

sweet - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld Los Angeles - ...read full review


"If you're looking for a clear, simple plot - look elsewhere.  If on the other hand you're willing to get lost for two hours in Murray Mednick's obsessions, his latest play “Mayakovsky and Stalin” is perfect for you... The reason to spend two hours inside Mednick's mind is the wonderful ensemble cast that tackle his muscular language beautifully. (While you might get lost in the philosophical arguments - they never do)."

sweet - Anthony Byrnes, KCRW 89.9 FM - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Poet-playwright Mednick's fans may get it, but this is one evening of theater I'd gladly have skipped out of at intermission had the reviewer's code of ethics not prevailed."

sour - Steven Stanley - Stage Scene LA - ...read full review


David MacDowell Blue
"Sometimes I speak of plays as dreams, other times as myths. This play comes across as a poem, an intimate examination of some moments and some people in minute, telling detail--something to learn from, but not by agreeing with what the poet tells you to think. This poet isn't doing that. He bids you look. Listen. Consider. Feel."

sweet - David MacDowell Blue - Night Tinted Glasses - ...read full review


"Writer-director Mednick gives us an abstracted, non-linear, and formalized picture of intriguing events in Russian life. He employs a Chorus (Max Faugno) to permit him to speak in his own voice, but the Chorus is also characterized as Kirov, a faithful Stalin follower who's loyal to his master till the master no longer finds him useful, and has him eliminated, like so many before and after him. There is much intellectual debate among the characters, which tends to undermine the dramatic thrust of the piece. Mednick has assembled an able cast, including Rhonda Aldrich as Lilya's mother, Alexis Sterling as her sister Elsa, and Ann Colby Stocking as her faithful but helpless maid."

sweet - Neal Weaver, Stage Raw - ...read full review


"MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN is compelling history offered in the perceptive Mednick style. Unfortunately, however, the nexus between the two men is weak and often feels like the author grasping at straws. In addition, the play is presented more like a staged reading than a classic play. ...Finally, of course, the talented cast keeps the action rolling. MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN would certainly appeal to history buffs, as well as to people who find the foibles of the rich, famous, and infamous gripping. Author Mednick's words are also captivating and lyrical. This beguiling slice of life will keep the audience's attention and interest – and may even trigger some discussion after the curtain comes down."

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura, LA Splash - ...read full review


"It's a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos. Sadly, it focuses mainly on the brutal suicides of tormented Vladimir (Daniel Dorr) and raging Nadya (Casey McKinnon) that makes for a sad and rather grim two hours. Historically interesting, the image of Stalin (Maury Sterling) is unsurprisingly frightening, while the irrepressible Lilya (Laura Liguori) illuminates the carefree sexuality of the 20's and 30's."

sweet-sour - Morna Martell, Theatre Spoken Here - ...read full review


"Playwright Murray Mednick's ambitious Mayakovsky and Stalin can be viewed as perpetuating the de-Stalinization process and rehabilitating the work and stature of socialists who suffered grievously under the so-called “Man of Steel's” iron grip and strongman rule, which butchered the Central Committee Lenin had tried to warn to expel their crude General-Secretary with show trials, ice picks in the back of the skull and so on. Indeed, this extremely intellectual two-acter grapples with highly complex, compelling subject matter and is a must see (and hear) for those interested in revolution and art."

sweet - Ed Rampell, Free Press - ...read full review


"With projected photographs (some of them, such as Mayakovsky's body after his death, quite amazing) and a wonderful cast, Mednick has taken history and brought it to life through the telling rather than the showing."

sweet - Douglas Messerli, U.S. Theatre, Opera and Performance - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Now, about the play. There is a lot of history and background to expound upon: The characters are often in the position of illustrating the exposition narrated by the Chorus. In fact, the entire cast of nine are seated on red chairs throughout both acts, rising for their scenes as required in staged reading style. Their dialogue, rarely between more than two or three people, is recited with all due theatrical emotive effect, but there's almost no physical action. Atmospheres are filled in with projections. With only minor adaptation to indicate which character is speaking, it's ideally suited for radio. One might honestly ask, Why bother staging it at all? We learn most of what we are asked to absorb in the first act. I don't know Mednick's other plays, but in this one he seems to use language like film montage of the early Soviet era, words recapitulating themselves as if in quick successive frames in the expectation that restated, repeated, reiterated, they will acquire new depths and facets of meaning. The nonlinear approach only extenuates the length of the play without furthering our understanding. He did not require two acts to communicate what he needed to, whatever the rhetorical mode he chose to adopt."

sweet-sour - Eric A Gordon, People's World - ...read full review


Leigh Kennicott
"Padua Playwright Murray Mednick serves up a dish of memories of the Russian Revolution from the immigrant community where he grew up. As his narrator, Max Faugno is masterful as Mednick, at other times playing Stalin's henchman, Kirov, and other fixers, to tell the stories of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (Daniel Dorr) and the dictator, Josef Stalin (Maury Sterling). Although his character sketches vividly breathe life into these long-ago comrades, both stories refuse hard cause-and-effect narratives, and therein lay the difficulty following Mayakovsky and Stalin as a play."

sweet-sour - Leigh Kennicott - ShowMag - ...read full review


"Whether a commentary on past events or a forewarning of things to come Mednick has nevertheless mounted a solidly-staged, well-crafted production, one that is as impressive as it is challenging."

sweet - Ernest Kearney - www.thetvolution.com - ...read full review


"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."

sweet - Victor Kong - Discover Hollywood - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal
"There are plays that tell a story and there are plays that ponder ideas. Murray Mednick's latest world premiere MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN is the latter, an intellectual dissection of two Russian revolutionaries who were as integral to Eastern European history as beets are to borscht. But in Mednick's drama it is their thoughts that are under the microscope, or what he imagines their thoughts to be, rather than their actions. For, as his Chorus (Max Faugno) reminds us, "We know next to nothing of the past.""

sweet - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld Los Angeles - ...read full review


"If you're looking for a clear, simple plot - look elsewhere.  If on the other hand you're willing to get lost for two hours in Murray Mednick's obsessions, his latest play “Mayakovsky and Stalin” is perfect for you... The reason to spend two hours inside Mednick's mind is the wonderful ensemble cast that tackle his muscular language beautifully. (While you might get lost in the philosophical arguments - they never do)."

sweet - Anthony Byrnes, KCRW 89.9 FM - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Poet-playwright Mednick's fans may get it, but this is one evening of theater I'd gladly have skipped out of at intermission had the reviewer's code of ethics not prevailed."

sour - Steven Stanley - Stage Scene LA - ...read full review


David MacDowell Blue
"Sometimes I speak of plays as dreams, other times as myths. This play comes across as a poem, an intimate examination of some moments and some people in minute, telling detail--something to learn from, but not by agreeing with what the poet tells you to think. This poet isn't doing that. He bids you look. Listen. Consider. Feel."

sweet - David MacDowell Blue - Night Tinted Glasses - ...read full review


"Writer-director Mednick gives us an abstracted, non-linear, and formalized picture of intriguing events in Russian life. He employs a Chorus (Max Faugno) to permit him to speak in his own voice, but the Chorus is also characterized as Kirov, a faithful Stalin follower who's loyal to his master till the master no longer finds him useful, and has him eliminated, like so many before and after him. There is much intellectual debate among the characters, which tends to undermine the dramatic thrust of the piece. Mednick has assembled an able cast, including Rhonda Aldrich as Lilya's mother, Alexis Sterling as her sister Elsa, and Ann Colby Stocking as her faithful but helpless maid."

sweet - Neal Weaver, Stage Raw - ...read full review


"MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN is compelling history offered in the perceptive Mednick style. Unfortunately, however, the nexus between the two men is weak and often feels like the author grasping at straws. In addition, the play is presented more like a staged reading than a classic play. ...Finally, of course, the talented cast keeps the action rolling. MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN would certainly appeal to history buffs, as well as to people who find the foibles of the rich, famous, and infamous gripping. Author Mednick's words are also captivating and lyrical. This beguiling slice of life will keep the audience's attention and interest – and may even trigger some discussion after the curtain comes down."

sweet-sour - Elaine Mura, LA Splash - ...read full review


"It's a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos. Sadly, it focuses mainly on the brutal suicides of tormented Vladimir (Daniel Dorr) and raging Nadya (Casey McKinnon) that makes for a sad and rather grim two hours. Historically interesting, the image of Stalin (Maury Sterling) is unsurprisingly frightening, while the irrepressible Lilya (Laura Liguori) illuminates the carefree sexuality of the 20's and 30's."

sweet-sour - Morna Martell, Theatre Spoken Here - ...read full review


"Playwright Murray Mednick's ambitious Mayakovsky and Stalin can be viewed as perpetuating the de-Stalinization process and rehabilitating the work and stature of socialists who suffered grievously under the so-called “Man of Steel's” iron grip and strongman rule, which butchered the Central Committee Lenin had tried to warn to expel their crude General-Secretary with show trials, ice picks in the back of the skull and so on. Indeed, this extremely intellectual two-acter grapples with highly complex, compelling subject matter and is a must see (and hear) for those interested in revolution and art."

sweet - Ed Rampell, Free Press - ...read full review


"With projected photographs (some of them, such as Mayakovsky's body after his death, quite amazing) and a wonderful cast, Mednick has taken history and brought it to life through the telling rather than the showing."

sweet - Douglas Messerli, U.S. Theatre, Opera and Performance - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Now, about the play. There is a lot of history and background to expound upon: The characters are often in the position of illustrating the exposition narrated by the Chorus. In fact, the entire cast of nine are seated on red chairs throughout both acts, rising for their scenes as required in staged reading style. Their dialogue, rarely between more than two or three people, is recited with all due theatrical emotive effect, but there's almost no physical action. Atmospheres are filled in with projections. With only minor adaptation to indicate which character is speaking, it's ideally suited for radio. One might honestly ask, Why bother staging it at all? We learn most of what we are asked to absorb in the first act. I don't know Mednick's other plays, but in this one he seems to use language like film montage of the early Soviet era, words recapitulating themselves as if in quick successive frames in the expectation that restated, repeated, reiterated, they will acquire new depths and facets of meaning. The nonlinear approach only extenuates the length of the play without furthering our understanding. He did not require two acts to communicate what he needed to, whatever the rhetorical mode he chose to adopt."

sweet-sour - Eric A Gordon, People's World - ...read full review