Chapter 9
A Play and a Party

TOWARDS THE MIDDLE OF 1925 there was talk again of a Rightist-Trotskyist bloc to stop Stalin. The rumors gained wide credence when Stalin failed in his desperate efforts to prevent the staging of Erdman Mandat, a satire on pseudo-Communists, aimed at Stalin's underworld gangsters and racketeers.

For many weeks Moscow was agog with talk about the coming première of this play at the Meyerhold Theater. There was fear of riots. The tickets had been given out long in advance, but Olya managed to get seats for Mills and me. She arranged in addition to have us admitted to Meyerhold's communal home where a party was to be given after the performance.

The elite of the Red capital flocked to the theater, eager to see the party gangsters under fire. In literary circles Mandat was being compared with Gogol Revizor, which in its time had thrown a glaring light on the evils of the Tsarist bureaucracy.

The immediate effect of the comedy was a roaring laugh at the Stalin bureaucracy, but in the long run it proved fatal to nearly all those who had dared to laugh--especially to author Erdman, to producer Meyerhold, and to the star, Madame Zinaida Reikh.

The play was a smash hit from start to finish. In the opening

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