On Saturday, I was at Goodman’s performance of the “Music Man.” I have a “Whenever Goodman” subscription, which means that I could choose which shows I will be attending, and how many tickets I will allocate for each. I knew that the last play of the season would be the “Music Man,” so I’ve saved the last four tickets for it, not even knowing whom I will invite.
I like the Silk Road Rising theater a lot. I’ve been coming to their performances almost since they were founded, and I find most of the plays they stage quite exciting. When I’ve received their newsletter where they announced the short festival of the staged readings of the plays from the former Soviet Middle Asia republics, I immediately started to contemplate, who I can see them all.
This plan appeared to be impossible, for a simple reason that I have other things to do as well, but I still wanted to see some of them. So today Igor and I went to see “Uzbek, ” and I am keeping thinking about what I saw.
It is a great play, and in my opinion, it touches the topics which are very relevant to Russian society these days. However, both Igor and I feel that there was not enough context for the part of the audience, which is not very familiar with the subject of the play.
During the after-show conversation, one of the Russian playwriters said, that this play is supposed to be “hilarious,” which is true, but only if one can understand the cultural references, can figure out, which statements are an exaggeration, which are sarcastic and which are satirical. And if you have no idea, how things look in reality, you can’t appreciate the author’s reference points. For example, if you are unfamiliar with the ways of Russian bureaucracy, you can’t see the point of comparing it to the Uzbek bureaucracy. If you do not know anything about different socioeconomic groups in nowadays Russia, you can’t detect the origin of the person by listening to his alternated speech.
Now that I’ve thought about this play for some time, I do not think that all the jokes are so funny, even if (or precisely because of that) you know the context.
Several people talked to us after this conversation was over, and they were saying that they were going to ask the same context question and that they agree with me.
The reason why I react at this with such a fuss is that that’s precisely how the myths are being born, and precisely the reason I am so articulate in my posts about the Soviet and Russian history, describing all ifs and why.
Sometimes Russian actors, singers, and playwriters are going on the international tours to cater exclusively to the immigrant audience, and there is nothing wrong about it if that’s all they plan. However, I think this specific play can potentially bring a lot of value in the understanding of the current situation in Russia by the America audience if accompanied by more details about the setup and cultural and historical context.