Willow Creek Theatre’s production ‘The Kornilov Affair’ intersects comedy and history

Written by the show’s ensemble over the course of two months, ‘The Kornilov Affair’ chronicles the events that paved the way for the Russian Revolution.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

The relatively intimate crowd settled into their seats at the Willow Creek Theatre, prepared to see an intersection of history and comedy. The lights lifted and the audience fell silent as the show started with intensity, the audience immediately captured by The Kornilov Affair.

Willow Creek Theatre Company presented the world premiere of The Kornilov Affair, a dramatized comedy chronicling the context for the Russian Revolution, on March 4. The show will continue to play March 5-6 and 11-13. 

Willow Creek was officially founded in Jan. 2020. Artistic Director Luke Brooks, also one of the founders, said that the theater attempts to give various forms of art a platform to be respected, and creates a healthier environment for artists to thrive.

The Kornilov Affair is one such show, born out of Brooks listening to a podcast titled Revolutions. The play was written, designed, and performed by the ensemble, creating a comedic masterpiece over the course of two short months. 

“It’s this giant, beautiful, goofy, incredible behemoth that runs two and a half hours,” Brooks said. “We’re so proud of it and so excited.”

The group of six actors and actresses and a handful of other crew members worked in tandem to create The Kornilov Affair. Brigid Martin, actress and lead writer of the show, said that the creative process for this piece was a unique experience because of the instant feedback that the work recieved. 

Due to the nature of collaborative work, Martin noted that there was a constant stream of communication between everyone in the project. 

“We’ve had a lot of fun working with it and sort of creating these moments,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of surprises along the way that I think the audience is going to really enjoy.”

The piece opened with a great deal of exposition. Rather than the actors and actresses presenting information through stale dialogue, the cast broke out into song and dance to chronicle the political context that paved the way for the Russian Revolution. 

With characters occasionally stopping the scene to include historical definitions and explanations, the convoluted political concepts were easily digestible to the audience. Despite the fact that the play was based on real events, the story was not lost because of its more complicated elements. 

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The Kornilov Affair was hilarious, succeeding in its advertised genre of comedy. Rather than solely writing craftful jokes, the team devised distinct characters that were hysterical in their own right. Each individual had their own precise voice and tropes, leading to moments that had the audience cackling with laughter. 

While comedy was at the forefront of the piece, there were still serious elements that persisted. All of the actors and actresses carried out those elements with excellence — their impactful stage presence filled the stage despite the relatively small cast. 

Emotions ran high throughout the performance, and the audience was reminded that the Russian Revolution was a historical event that had tangible consequences in the real world. 

While watching the show, there was an undeniable connection to present political affairs. Given the current tension regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Willow Creek addressed The Kornilov Affair’s use of Russian history amid iconography on their Facebook page.

“We hope audiences will come out and use this show to plug themselves into these incredibly important issues, and allow our work to be a jumping-off point for larger community conversations about current events,” the Facebook post reads. 

Being a world premiere, The Kornilov Affair has a unique position in the theater world that Brooks said he is most looking forward to: seeing the work that has been in progress for several months finally take the stage. 

“I am excited. I am very confident in the show. I’m very excited for audiences to see the show and I’m excited for those first few laugh moments,” Brooks said. “I think that’ll be really meaningful to me.”