Rating: 5 words – Brave Beautiful Gutsy Shocking Disrobed.
This is a play about artistic courage. Its genius is to match the courage of its subjects—performance artist Petr Pavlensky, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and Pussy Riots’s Maria Alyokhina, all contemporary Russian and Ukrainian artists who dared to challenge the Putin regime—with the bravery of the ensemble onstage. Over the course of the performance, the actors are drowned, disrobed, hurled above the audience. Their commitment and stamina is palpable. In one shocking moment, an actor, suspended in midair as a tortured man, pisses himself. This is theatre with guts.
As Bulgakov knew, the logic of totalitarianism is illogical. So too, the dramaturgy here unfolds as impressionistic responses to the stories of its three real-life protagonists. Highlights include two government agents talking shop while taking a shit, a beautiful evocation from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot on the meaning and meaninglessness of time, the recurring use of polyphonic song, and a haunting final image evoking the title itself. A show for the brave.