Review: Lenin's Emblamers Brings Pleasant Surprises

A distinctly unique production at WHAT

The year is 1924 and Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Soviet Union is dead. 

The Communist Party leaders came up with a plan to immortalize Lenin by preserving his corpse forever and eventually displaying it for all time in the Lenin Mausoleum.

Pretty dry stuff, one would think. 

Then along came author Vern Thiessen with this black comedy "Lenin's Embalmers" - about the drama surrounding the early days of the Lenin immortalization project. 

Odd as it seems, the treatment works.

In this production, the Julie Harris Stage at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater starts out adorned by an enormous rendering of a Soviet-era Lenin propaganda poster.   The curtain rises on a dying Lenin, well played by Robin Hayes, who almost immediately tears down the poster.  

Once Lenin dies, he comes back as something of a stand-up comic/narrator.  The other characters include Stalin, Trotsky, the embalmers themselves and a host of others.  The performers are energetic, play the comedic irony quite well and generally do great credit to the material.

The production moves very fast.  Scene transitions are rapid and well-choreographed.  Before we knew it intermission had arrived.

The costumes are realistic.  The embalming scenes, played behind a red screen, are dramatic and visually rich.

"Lenin's Embalmers" is an engaging black comedy that will appeal to a diverse audience.  Indeed, the audience last Friday night included an impressive number of immaculately attired young people in their 20's and 30's along with a mix of older adults and senior citizens.  It is pleasing to see a younger crowd enjoying the theater.

The comedy of "Lenin's Embalmers" may not click for those who came of age at the height of the Cold War.  Some of us find it a bit difficult to move from "duck and cover" to viewing a mass-murderer like Stalin as a funny guy.

If You Go

"Lenin's Embalmers" playing from August 7th to August 31st

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