What's it about?
Collaborators follows Mikhail Bulgakov, a famous and talented playwright as well as a known threat to the Soviet Union, who is hired by Stalin's secret police to write a play about Stalin's life.
What'd I experience?
There was one big thing that got me interested in seeing this show. Reading the description, it's a play that involves Communism, the Soviet Union, and Stalin, and then goes on to say that it is hilarious. Personally, I didn't think there was any way to make the Soviet Union funny at all, so I had to see how they would do that.
I was a little skeptical when I first arrived at the venue. I had gone to the right address, but something just felt weird to me. I was standing in front of a church, not a theater or anything that resembled one. So I awkwardly walked in on a mass that was going on, slowly sneaked back out, and stood outside in confusion. Then, out of nowhere, a man comes up to me asking if I'm there for the show. I said yeah, and he said "yeah it's right that way into the basement." Now usually that should be a huge red flag, but I just went "oh cool" and walked right on down. Luckily, the show was actually going on down there.
It wasn't long before I knew why the show was so funny. The lead character Mikhail lives in a small apartment with his wife and another older couple, but then they are randomly assigned a new roommate who enthusiastically supports the Soviet Union. Accordingly, the rest of the tenants being the Soviet Russia haters that they were, give him the small 4x4 closet to sleep and stay in. So, every once in a while he would burst out and start spouting glorious propaganda for the motherland. His sheer enthusiasm among an apartment full of people who truly despise their ruler was so hilarious, and he never broke a smile about it the whole time.
But on to the real lovable thing about this show: Stalin and his secret police were so cool and likable. They were more like Good Guy Stalin and his Secret Fun Police. The secret police had hired Mikhail, a famous and talented playwright, to write a play about Stalin's early life as a surprise birthday gift. The main policeman Vladimir had a passion to be a play producer/director, and got all emotional when Mikhail doubted his ability to do it. I started dying laughing when Mikhail said "but you're a secret policeman!" and Vladimir just shouted back "is that all I am to you?!"
Then when Stalin meets with Mikhail to discuss what was supposed to be his surprise (his rationalization was that he's Stalin, of course he was going to find out any secret), he starts freaking out because he was a major fan of his work. Seeing Stalin jump around and giggle was a sight that I never thought I would see, and now that I have I can't imagine life before it. During the meeting, Mikhail had been stuck writing the play, so Stalin just took over and began typing it himself (typing his own birthday gift). From then on their meetings were just Mikhail going over and watching Stalin type for like an hour, discovering that he actually has a passion for poetry and other emotional, not Stalin-like stuff. He was almost lovable.
Besides all the fun Communism stuff that was happening, things also got a little dark in our beloved Soviet Russia (who would have thought). Since Stalin had been doing all of Mikhail's work, Stalin asked Mikhail to do some of his. This involved signing paperwork that forced farms to give up whatever crops they have to the state, leaving them to starve, as well as threatening steel factories to produce more resources. This would have been fine and understandable (I guess?), if he hadn't actually started to love the power he had. I was slowly watching this powerful, stubborn resistant to the Soviets become pretty much their ghost leader, which is a weird dynamic. Stalin being a ghost writer, Mikhail being a ghost leader. It was kind of sad, because I started off rooting for Mikhail, and then ended up rooting for Stalin, all honesty. That makes me a little scared because I don't know what that means about who I am.
Seeing how this is Soviet Russia we're talking about, things do end up going wrong in the end. Mikhail (who had been suffering from a severe illness, probably should have mentioned that), starts to regain all of his symptoms. His friends start falling one by one to the Soviet Empire. Eventually, he is overcome by his disease. It was all very sad, but at the same time, deeply fitting. The whole time he had been this pillar of revolution for his friends (I'm trying really hard not to say comrades), and all of a sudden he is practically becoming Stalin. I really enjoy a fallen hero story, and to see it put against that background was so enjoyable.