Red Bull to Stage New Version of Nikolai Erdman's THE MANDATE Next Monday

Red Bull Theater today announced the cast for their next Revelation Reading on Monday May 1st (7:30pm) at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street): the New York Premiere of Nikolai Erdman's The Mandate in a new version by Declan Donnellan (Cheek-by-Jowl), directed by Ethan McSweeny.

Jenny Bacon, Steven Boyer (Tony nominee, Hand of God), Blair Brown (Tony Award, Copenhagen; "Orange is the New Black"), Christian Conn (The School for Scandal, The Liar), Susannah Flood, Carol Halstead, Jeffrey Omura, Jeanine Serralles (The Maids, Gloria), Alex Podulke, David Quay, Derek Smith (Tony nominee, The Green Bird), Andrew Weems and Kim Wong will be featured, plus live music by Spiff Weigand.

Tickets are available at or by phone at (212) 352-3101.

This Gogolian farce, set in Moscow during the early days of Stalin, is a hilarious and spirited attack on the sinister loss of individual identity in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. A family of ex-grocers tries to marry into a group of closet Tsarist romantics. The husband for the daughter, however, has to be a bona fide communist. As the petty bourgeoisie frantically rustle up a group of fake proletarian relatives we soon discover that, in Erdman's world, everything turns out to be outrageously less than it seems. The perfect aperitif to Red Bull's upcoming mainstage production: The Government Inspector.

The Mandate, written in 1925 and staged in Moscow that same year, has always taken a backseat to Erdman's second play, The Suicide (banned since 1932, it was first produced in Sweden in 1969). Declan Donnellan, prior to staging The Mandate at the National Theatre in London in 2004, wrote "I don't know why everyone assumes The Suicide is the masterpiece. I always thought the masterpiece was The Mandate." This first major play by a writer who had still not reached the age of 25 was chock full of influences from the works, writers and genres that preceded it. You have an opening that beautifully parodies Alexander Ostrovsky's brilliant portraits drawn from the Moscow merchant milieu. The ending reworks the impact of the famous stunned, mute finale of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector. You have farcical elements drawn from the circus. Political and social satire rain down on all sides, coloring, though never fully determining the shape of this strange and wonderful play. This is the rich and varied territory that Erdman began to till with The Mandate, and went on to develop in The Suicide. In fact, this complex, fascinating play about people getting the rug pulled out from under their feet (or tossed over their heads, as the case may be), is one of the most powerful and enigmatic plays of the 20th century. (Courtesy, John Freedman, author of Silence's Roar: The Life and Drama of Nikolai Erdman).

Nikolai Erdman (1900-1970) wrote just two full plays, but both are considered classics of 20th-century comedy. He wrote both for the great, innovative Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold, although the politics of the early Soviet period meant their historic association would be cut short tragically. Erdman was exiled to Siberia in 1933 after Meyerhold's attempt to stage his second play, The Suicide, was banned; and less than a decade later, in 1941, Meyerhold himself was executed as a "foreign spy." Erdman never wrote another stage play. Erdman's first major play The Mandate , (1925), was a game-changer for Soviet theater. It was hailed as the first "Soviet" comedy, and Erdman was compared to every great Russian playwright or comic writer of the past - Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Saltykov-Schedrin, Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin, Alexander Ostrovsky and Anton Chekhov. The Mandate gave Meyerhold one of his biggest box office hits ever - it took less than one year to reach its 100th performance; unheard-of for a theater running numerous productions simultaneously in repertory. One scholar counted no less than 336 discrete bursts of laughter unleashed by audiences during the course of a single performance. Even at four hours performance time, that adds up to new surges of laughter every 45 seconds. All was not fun and games, however. By 1927, the censor began cutting more and more phrases from the performance, and, after The Suicide was banned in 1932, Erdman was no longer the talk of the town, he was driven out of it. Still, the tenacious legend that he lived out his life a broken, forgotten man is seriously exaggerated. In fact, he turned his talents to screenwriting, penning some of Russia's best and most popular features and animated films from the 1930s through the 1960s. Meanwhile, his plays returned to us in the 1970s and 1980s as classics.

Declan Donnellan is co-founder and joint Artistic Director of Cheek by Jowl. He and his partner, Nick Ormerod, formed Cheek by Jowl in 1981 and he has since directed over 30 productions for the company, touring to nearly 400 cities, spanning six continents. Work with Cheek by Jowl includes his cross-gender, colour-blind cast As You Like It with Adrian Lester, hailed as the definitive production by critics the world over. Donnellan has also staged the English premieres, 300 years after their writing, of major European classics by writers such as Racine, Corneille, Lessing and Ostrovski to great acclaim. In 1989, Donnellan was made Associate Director of the Royal National Theatre in London where his productions have included Fuenteovejuna, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Mandate and both parts of Angels in America. In 2000, he formed a company of actors in Moscow, under the auspices of The Chekhov International Theatre Festival, whose productions include Boris Godunov, Twelfth Night, Three Sisters, and The Tempest. These productions have already been seen in in more than 25 countries. His book, The Actor and the Target, originally published in Russian (2001), has since appeared in 15 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Romanian and Mandarin, and the second English edition was published in 2005. Donnellan also wrote the play Lady Betty, bringing Ireland's notorious hangwoman to the stage with Cheek by Jowl in 1989. His adaptation credits for the company include Don't Fool with Love by Alfred de Musset, Antigone by Sophocles, and Masquerade by Lermontov, in addition to The Mandate by Erdman. Donnellan has received awards in London, Moscow, Paris and New York, including four Olivier Awards for Director of the Year (1987), Best Director of a Musical (1994), Best Director of a Play (1995), and Outstanding Achievement (1990). In February of 2004 he was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his work in France, and in 2009 he shared the Charlemagne award with Craig Venter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Other productions include: Shakespeare in Love (Noël Coward Theatre), The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (English National Opera), Martin Guerre (Prince Edward Theatre), Hay Fever (Savoy Theatre), Antigone (The Old Vic), Verdi's Falstaff (Salzburg Festival), The Winter's Tale (Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg), and Romeo & Juliet andHamlet for the Bolshoi Ballet. For the Royal Shakespeare Company: The School for Scandal, King Lear (RSC Academy), and his co-adaptation of Great Expectations. His first feature film, Bel Ami, co-directed with Nick Ormerod, and starring Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, and Robert Pattinson, was released in 2012.

Red Bull Theater's OBIE Award-winning Revelation Readings present staged readings of new and rarely performed classic plays from all eras and cultures. With the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as the cornerstone of our mission, Red Bull Theater is dedicated to the rediscovery and re-investigation of classics from all eras and cultures, and to the development of new plays of heightened language and classical themes. Revelation Readings provides a unique opportunity to hear these plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.

Revelation Readings are Monday evenings at 7:30 PM, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, between Bleecker and Hudson Streets). Tickets for Revelation Readings are $42, with Premium Seats available at $64. For complete list of Readings and up-to-date cast information for upcoming Readings, visit

Up next on the mainstage: The Government Inspector, directed by Jesse Berger which will begin performances at the Duke on 42nd Street May 16th and continue through June 24thONLY. The inimitable Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar, "Ugly Betty") leads the all-star cast including two-time Tony nominee Mary Testa, Arnie Burton (39 Steps, Irma Vep), Stephen DeRosa ("Boardwalk Empire," Into the Woods), and Michael McGrath (Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Nice Work If You Can Get It and Tony and Drama Desk nominations for Spamalot). This New York Premiere of acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's (Stage Beauty) adaptation offers a hilarious reminder of the timelessness of bureaucracy and buffoonery. Tickets are on sale NOW for this limited engagement.

Red Bull Theater is the not-profit Off-Broadway theater company specializing in plays of heightened language. With the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as its cornerstone, Red Bull Theater embraces the imagination of theatergoers through intimate, imaginative productions of great classic stories from all eras and cultures.

Red Bull Theater has previously staged productions of Pericles, The Revenger's Tragedy, Edward the Second, Women Beware Women, The Duchess of Malfi, The Witch of Edmonton, The Maids, The Dance of Death, Loot, The Mystery of Irma Vep, Volpone, The Changeling, 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, as well as last season's hit production of Sheridan's The School For Scandal as well as Coriolanus earlier this season!

Red Bull Theater's work has been recognized with multiple Drama Desk, Drama League, Lucille Lortel, Callaway and OBIE Award nominations and awards, including the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Revival in the 2015-'16 season (School for Scandal). The company has staged nearly 150 Revelation Readings, named by the Village Voice "Best Play Reading Series," also developing new plays of heightened language and classical adaptations through workshops and offering educational programs for students of all ages. Post-play Bull Session discussions with scholars following select Sunday matinees and Readings are free and open to the public.

Red Bull Theater offers Master Classes throughout the year. Taught by top working professionals including Kathleen Chalfant, John Douglas Thompson, Olympia Dukakis, Heidi Griffiths, Stephen Spinella and Patrick Page, Red Bull Theater's intensives and workshops cover a variety of disciplines, including auditioning, text, voice, movement, clowning, stage combat, and acting Shakespeare. Classes are open to adults at all levels of training or experience. They range from one to four days with limited class sizes to allow one-on-one attention. You can enroll in any combination of classes, or take the whole series for a year-long training experience.

For tickets and more information, visit or call (212) 352-3101.

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