A: Nikolai Erdman W: 1928–31 Pf: 1969, Malmö, Sweden; 1982, Moscow Pb: 1973 Tr: 1973 G: Com. in 5 acts; Russian prose S: A Soviet town, 1920s C: 13m, 9f, extrasSemyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov is a sad individual who is unable to find a job. He is embarrassed at having to send his wife out to work and takes up the tuba as a source of income, but he is as much a failure at this as at everything else. He decides that the only way out is to commit suicide. Alerted by his gossipy neighbour, a number of different groups visit him in order to enlist his suicide as a protest by their faction: intellectuals, women, Marxists, shopkeepers, and clergy. They celebrate his send-off with a banquet, but, with his customary ineptitude, he is too cowardly to commit suicide and just lies down in his coffin in a drunken sleep. Imagining that he is dead, the funeral party carries him to the graveyard, where he suddenly revives, jumps out of the coffin, and declares himself for life.
A: Nikolai Erdman W: 1928–31 Pf: 1969, Malmö, Sweden; 1982, Moscow Pb: 1973 Tr: 1973 G: Com. in 5 acts; Russian prose S: A Soviet town, 1920s C: 13m, 9f, extras
This product of the early Soviet theatre became internationally famous only towards the end of the 20th century. It was already in rehearsal for both Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theatre and Meyerhold's theatre, when on Stalin's instructions the Soviet censor banned its performance. Its manuscript circulated for decades in the Soviet underground, where it probably acquired additional satirical barbs against the regime. In fact, the play is still not particularly subversive: Podsekalnikov is hardly an admirable hero, and satirical treatment of the vying factions, with the possible exception of the Marxists, is no frontal assault on the Communist state.