To Be Or Not To Be

Written by:

Miriam Laurence

Cast Size:
19

Roles For:

  • Men: 8
  • Women: 11

Genre:

Adaptation
Comedy
Satire

Themes:

20th Century
Communism
Russia

Length:

70 min.

Synopsis:

“Adapting Nikolai Erdman–Stalinist Russia, 1930’s. Through a series of misunderstandings, Semyon Podsekalnikov’s threat to kill himself is taken to heart by a collection of desperately ridiculous, self-important characters. They flock to his crowded rooming house to convince him to kill himself for their cause. Total mayhem ensues.

What makes To Be Or Not To Be immediately accessible to a modern-day audience is the satire on life and human motivations of self-interest. The over-the-top plotlines bring to mind many of the characters and situations we are familiar with in television sitcoms (I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm), where the insanity of life is revealed and the protagonists themselves are not particularly noble.

The play is perfect for acting groups from teens to adults. As a high school production, it offers many opportunities to connect to curriculum, not only to Russian history, but to critiquing of our modern-day need for fame and entitlement. As a production for more advanced actors, it is a great opportunity to create characters through any number of acting techniques, while going into a deeper examination of the underlying motif of the play: the brutality, repression and fear instilled by the Stalinist regime on its populace.” (From the CPO Website)

Characters:

MEN
1. Semyon Semyonovitch (Simon Son of Simon), an out of work man
2. Alexander Kalabushkin (Semyon’s neighbour, a widower who runs a shooting range and is having an affair with Margarita)
3. Yegor the delivery man
4. Nikofor Pugachyov (butcher)
5. Father Yelpidy (priest)
6. Oleg (a young, handsome soldier)
7. Mortician 1
8. Mortician 2

WOMEN
1. Masha (Semyon’s wife)
2. Serafima (Masha’s mother; old; can speak with a distinct, ‘old-world’ accent)
3. Margarita (Restaurant owner & having an affair with Alexander)
4. Cleopatra an eccentric older woman
5. Raisa, Cleopatra’s rival, a petite ballerina
6. Henrietta (hatmaker) & Restaurant Waitress
7. Madame Sophie (dressmaker) & Member of the ‘Free Artist Trio’
8. Grunya, a Member of the ‘Free Artist Trio’
9. Zinka, Member of the ‘Free Artist Trio
10. Old Woman 1
11. Old Woman 2

MALE or FEMALE
1. Aristark(‘us’ or ‘a’) Grand-Skubik (Male or Female)
2. an intellectual
3. Domin(‘us’ or ‘a’) Grand-Skubik (Male or Female)
4. an intellectual (Aristark’s sister/brother)
5. Viktoria (an artist)
6. Kostya, Waiter

CASTING NOTE: SEMYON, MASHA, AND SERAFIMA CAN BE DOUBLE CAST:
Semyon 1: Scenes 1, 3 & 5
Semyon 2: Scene 2 & 4
Masha & Serafima 1: Scenes 1 & 2 (or 1 & 5)
Masha & Serafima 2: Scenes 4 & 5 (or 2 & 4)

First Produced:

2014

Resources:

To Be Or Not To Be is available through the CPO Website.

To view other works by this playwright, click here.