By concealing the struggles of the actors to achieve their sought-after form as embodiments of their characters, traditional theater, according to Ngũgĩ, actually causes people in the audience to "feel their inadequacies, their weaknesses and their incapacities in the face of reality; and their inability to do anything about the conditions governing their lives."
The play points an accusatory finger at church institutions that are complicit in facilitating the wedding arrangements and act only as a means for the oppressed workers to drown their sorrows, juxtaposing them with the local bars in which the characters spend their time. The story echoes the Biblical King Ahab, who is pressured by his wife Jezebel to kill a vineyard owner, Naboth, and seize his vineyard.
The staging of the play in a local theatre sought to "demystify" the theatrical process, and to avoid the "process of alienation [which] produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers" which, according to Ngũgĩ, encourages passivity in the viewer. Although Ngaahika Ndeenda was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening.
Both playwrights were subsequently imprisoned for over a year.