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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Theatre Review: Bulgakov/Moliere or The Cabal of Hypocrites

Santa Monica CA

Review by Jonathan Weichsel

The Master and Margarita has long been one of my favorite novels. I find its theme of the responsibility of the writer to stand up to authority very moving, and consider it required reading for anybody who aspires to write serious fiction, so when a friend of mine told me that she was acting in a play about Bulgakov, I just had to check it out.

Bulgakov/Moliere is a meta-fictional reworking of Bulgakov's play Moliere, with a meta-fictional reworking of the most famous scene from The Master and Margarita acting as a frame for the narrative. In Bulgakov/Moliere, Bulgakov's play Moliere has just been banned by Stalin's regime, and Bulgakov has burned his manuscript of The Master and Margarita in despair. Little does he know however, that manuscripts don't burn.  He passes out drunk, and is visited by characters from The Master and Margarita, who perform his play for him, but because Bulgakov dreams of running away to the US, they set the story in contemporary, 21st century America.

Click the RAWR for the full review.

By Juxtaposing aspects of 21st century art and politics onto the story of Moliere, and having the action commented on by a writer struggling to work under Stalin, playwright Charles A. Duncombe shows that the contemporary creative industry is just as oppressive as Stalin's regime was, and that Stalin's regime was just as oppressive as the court of The Sun King that Moliere worked under. The struggle of the artist against power is not something unique to one individual or era, but is something universal, and existed in all times and places where people chose to write.

Bulgakov/Moliere is full of high comedy. For example, what if a development executive gave notes to an ego as huge as Moliere's? What if The Sun King had a campaign strategist telling him what he could and could not do based on polling and public opinion? What if contemporary American right wing conservative as well as liberal-progressive forces reacted Moliere's writing, right-wing conservatives by trying to shut down his plays through demagoguery and subterfuge , and liberal-progressives by co-opting his theater through unionization and trying to insert their own ideas into the production through restructuring?

Bulgakov/Moliere is highly recommended for fans of Bulgakov, or of Moliere, or those in the contemporary creative industry here in Hollywood who are interested in how politics, art, and commerce intersect in 21st century America. One woman in the audience, who was offended by the nudity in the production, stood up during the opening scene, announced to the audience that she was a Christian and would not watch this filth, and stormed out of the theater. Without commenting on how highly ironic this is given the themes of the play and Bulgakov's own views towards Christianity, I feel I should mention that viewer discretion is advised.

Get your tickets now at Brown Paper Tickets.

For more information visit City Garage Theatre at their Official Site.

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