Cocktails with Stalin: two plays in one night

Culture Theatre

Cocktails with Stalin, appearing at the Intrepid Theatre Club, is a two-act event, with each act consisting of one play. The first act is the play Good Night Uncle Joe and the second act is the play Canterbury Cocktails.

Good Night Uncle Joe revolves around an interview that an American journalist, named Anna (Randi Edmundson), conducts with Stalin’s henchman Lavrenti Beria (Evan Roberts). The play, based in KGB headquarters on March. 1 1953, steeps itself in the history of the time. However, Good Night Uncle Joe suffers from its dependence on history; the number of references and the high stakes of this era could easily be lost on those unfamiliar with the period. Those interested in the politics of the time may have a higher appreciation for the material. There was definitely a buildup of some tension considering the subject matter, but it was mainly between the two characters, and the overall stakes weren’t apparent. However, Roberts’s performance as Beria is well done; he is able to emote charm and charisma from a character that is a killer. Roberts and Edmund, in character, have a back-and-forth verbal and physical way of challenging each other that works well most of the play. Although, at times the flow seems a little unrealistic, exemplified when, after one pulls a gun on the other, it doesn’t have a long-lasting effect. The characters, instead of continuing to act coldly to each other, which would be expected, resume their previous banter.

Canterbury Cocktails is billed as “a game of charades with the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer.” Julian Cervello is the sole actor in these charades, which are the story of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Audiences should be warned that the play is spoken entirely in Middle English, and because of this, the play fits the charades billing, as some may be left guessing what is actually happening or being described. However, a program is provided that contains some translations and basic descriptions of the many characters involved. But as with Good Night Uncle Joe, knowledge or interest in the subject matter, the Canterbury Tales, and Middle English will most likely add an extra level of enjoyment. Cervello’s enthusiasm, exuberance and commitment to the role make the play entertaining to watch. It is Cervello’s performance alone that makes this a play that can be enjoyed with little understanding by novice audiences. However, the language is still a barrier at times.

Good Night Uncle Joe and Canterbury Cocktails are perhaps better suited for an audience already interested and educated in the subject matter. The plays may have a hard time satisfying a wider audience base.

Cocktails with Stalin
Intrepid Theatre Club (2-1609 Blanshard St.)
Oct. 30 and 31, and Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.