Dying for It OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Ruby Washington
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • EW

Opening Night:
December 11, 2014
Closing:
January 18, 2015

Theater: Atlantic Theater / 336 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011

Synopsis: 

Following the acclaimed American premiere of Gabriel in 2010, Moira Buffini returns to Atlantic with an adaptation of this timely and riotous Soviet era farce by Nikolai Erdman. Dying for It is the story of Semyon, a man down on his luck and out of options. When he decides to throw in the towel and kill himself, a deluge of sympathetic visitors descends upon him, determined to make him a martyr for their many causes. Swept up in the firestorm of attention, Semyon does take matters into his own hands, but not quite in the fashion that everyone expects. An outrageous satire on the hypocrisy and illogic of Soviet life, this play was banned by Stalin before it ever saw the light of day, and is now regarded as an under-known 20th century classic comedy.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Dying for It

    A Martyr for the Cause, if Only He Could Pick One

    Charles Isherwood

    January 8, 2015: Who can get enough of Soviet-era stage comedies? That’s a joke, of course. Who knew there were any? Those curious to discover what might have tickled the funny bones of folks suffering under Stalinism may want to attend the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Dying for It, a “free adaptation” by the British writer Moira Buffini of The Suicide, a 1928 play by Nikolai Erdman. “Might have” are operative words here. Although the celebrated directors Vsevolod Meyerhold and Konstantin Stanislavksy both championed the play, plans to stage it were quashed by the authorities. It was not performed in Moscow until 1982, more than a decade after Erdman’s death, so it’s impossible to know how Russian audiences of the late 1920s might have reacted to this mordant satire about a man whose determination to kill himself wins him a host of fawning friends and admirers. Audiences today, unfortunately, are not likely to find the play an unheralded treasure from the vaults. Although Ms. Buffini’s version has been given a handsome staging directed by Neil Pepe, this bleakly comic portrait of desperate lives in Soviet Russia feels wheezy and labored, ultimately about as much fun as a winter holiday in Siberia. (Grim footnote: Mr. Erdman was exiled there after being arrested on political grounds in 1933.)

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Dying for It

    Moira Buffini comedy at the Atlantic Theater Off-Broadway draws on the banned 1928 Soviet satire 'The Suicide'

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    January 8, 2015: The first five minutes of Dying For It take place in the dark, a shrewd move by playwright Moira Buffini to underscore the big black cloud shrouding her hapless hero. Through the pall we hear sadsack Semyon Semyonovich bemoaning his pathetic existence in an urban slum in 1920's Russia. Why even go on? That’s the 64,000-ruble question in this adaptation of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 send-up of the Soviet regime, The Suicide. The original play was so biting about the can’t-win ridiculousness of Soviet life that it was banned by Stalin. Erdman was sent to Siberia. The decades have substantially defanged the satire. And director Neil Pepe’s staging never quite explodes into the “riotous farce” promised in promotional materials. At its best, the Atlantic Theater Company presentation makes for an amusing two hours that are buoyed by a game cast, lively musical interludes by two musicians who play violin and accordion (think “Fiddler on the Goof”) and striking design work packed with shadows and peeling paint.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Dying for It

    Dying For It Review

    Jason Clark

    January 8, 2015: The playbill for British playwright Moira Buffini's Dying For It—now playing at the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC—indicates that this is a 'free adaptation' of Soviet playwright Nikolai Erdman's The Suicide. That fact is plainly evident once you start to hear the occasional F-bombs fly, and for a while, Buffini's take on the colorful denizens of a ramshackle boarding house—who rally around suicidal, unemployed, headed-for-martyrdom figurehead Semyon Semyonovich (Joey Slotnick)—is filled with the promise of making the political quite personal, and how the societally disenfranchised simply wish to stand up and be counted. (Reportedly, Stalin was not a fan of Erdman's original.)

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