“I Never Betrayed the Revolution” at West of Lenin

Christopher Danowski’s “I never Betrayed The Revolution” places us in an unnamed Eastern European country reeling under the unjust rules of its corrupt government. Inspired by events in Poland in the late 1980s, the play, which has been under development for 25 years, addresses brutal, demoralized governments wherever they are.

Director A. J. Epstein was drawn to this work not only because of its political message, but also because, as he says, “The script is one of the finest examples of contemporary Absurdism….” This is its world premiere production realized with minimal props and set.

We find here all the components of repressive government. There are the subjugated, hungry peasants willing to fight over a single potato while they wait for promised reforms. Power resides in callous petty bureaucrats. Ill equipped politicos rise in station. The people say they are “like butterflies who must be rid of our shackles.” It’s all here. Unsurprisingly, there’s an overthrow of the government that fails to achieve its higher purpose. Hope! Expectations! And then it’s right back where it started. But now, even the cow is gone.

An interesting element in this portrayal of a timeworn tale is that the leading revolutionaries are women. But the woman who most impressed me was Kate Kraay whose main role is to walk out onto the stage, in a slinky black dress and high heels, her long black hair falling below her shoulders. Her face is a mask or solemnity. She carries a signboard. Time and again she appears, stands soberly in front of the audience, turns her sign board for all to read how much time has passed between the last scene and the next. Then she retreats into the wings as mysteriously as she appears.

The creative costumes by Sarah Mosher are praiseworthy, and the rousing Russian male-chorus military or political songs that occasionally fill the theatre provide just the right atmosphere. Overall, however, I found the production to be slow going despite the farcical elements. The Who said it all but more succinctly:

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss.

Through Nov. 23, at West of Lenin, 203 N 36th St., Seattle, (Brownpapertickets.com or 800 838-3006).

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