That’s the title for the current play at the Trapdoor Theatre, one of our favorite Chicago theatre groups. They perform at 1655 W. Cortland in Chicago and were incorporated in 1994.The Trapdoor does an outstanding job of presenting Eastern European content plays in English. Each year, the group travels to an Eastern Europe country staying with theatre people there and getting rejuvenated with fresh ideas. Remarkably, all the actors have full-time day jobs and perform gratis. That considered, it’s remarkable what a fine acting job they do.
Many of Trapdoor’s plays have a similar style. Due to the repression the former Iron Curtain countries endured prior to 1989, their writers had to adapt, expressing their ideas in allegory, symbolism, fairy tales, fantasy, abstractions, and theatre of the absurd. Anything but what they really wanted to say was okay. It’s always a challenge figuring out what each of the elements in the play really represents.
Last week we saw “How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients.” This outstanding piece of theatre was written by Matei Visniec and directed by Zoltan Balazs. As the first scene opens, the writer Yuri Petrovski has been brought to the psychiatric hospital so that he can write a poetic account of the glories of Communism, its history, and its leaders. Will the patients be uplifted by his poetic writings or will the patients ensnarl him in their various pathologies? I leave it to you the audience to find out. The play will be performed through April 16th. If you live in the Chicago area, I suggest that you take it in. If you live elsewhere, watch for this play to be performed in your area.
All the Trapdoor Theatre’s plays have resonated with us even more since visiting Prague and other points in Eastern Europe. While there, we visited The Museum of Communism probably more aptly named The Museum of the Soviet Occupation of Czechoslovakia. A picture of a Russian nesting doll with huge fangs greets people with on the poster “Entrance to the Museum of Communism is Here.” The picture largely sums up the attitudes of these countries to that period of their history.
Sometimes traveling elsewhere helps us to appreciate what we have here in the United States. We’re lucky to have never experienced what they have and I hope we never have to. Go see “How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients.” You’ll see what I mean.