Theater: Ghostly Cry

THE SUICIDE by Nikolai Erdman

This seriocomic drama is a relentlessly pumped-up footnote to Stalinist repression. It is a police-state curio dating from 1932. After 18 months of rehearsals, The Suicide was banned by the Moscow censors on the night of its dress rehearsal, and its author, Nikolai Erdman (1902-70), fell into abject disfavor.

The play's message is that an individual does not stand a ghost of a chance in a tyranny. Despite some farcically funny moments, and a brigade of song-and-dance gypsies—presumably immune to Communism's joyless coercions—The Suicide, as of 1980, iterates the obvious.

The hero, Senya (Derek Jacobi), is an everyman-nobody. He...

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