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Maria's Field Update

I wanted to thank all of you for your support around my current theatrical project Maria's Field. This role was a challenge for me but I feel good about where I am and proud of the work. I am looking forward to seeing how this rich role grows through me over the run.

In case you'd like to see them, I'm posting some reviews (all positive thus far - woo-hoo!) and photos below.

First, the Chicago Reader. Click the link or look
Maria's Field

This intriguing one-act by 38-year-old Russian playwright Oleg Bogaev has a tragic theme--the hopelessness of Russian war widows--but its tone is by turns whimsical and wistful. Its heroines, three elderly peasants, are gripped by the belief that their men will return, unchanged, from World War II, despite the passage of a half-century. As the women and their comical cow travel--by land and over water, back through time and memory--to meet their husbands, they encounter figures from history, including Hitler and Stalin. TUTA makes a specialty of introducing Chicago audiences to the work of European playwrights, and it scores a coup with this American premiere. Under the direction of Luda Lopatina and Zeljko Djukic, the acting is emotionally precise, and the superb scenic, lighting, costume, and sound designs create a realistic environment for the play's poetic ruminations on the material and mystic nature of life and death. --Albert Williams

Then TimeOut Chicago, included

Maria’s Field

In Russian dramatist Bogaev’s Maria’s Field, three Russian widows in peasant rags trek across the rugged countryside after an apparition tells them their husbands actually survived WWII decades earlier—which sounds like a king-size drag to watch. (Not to mention the blameless accident of the title evoking an Oprah book.) But in this magical-realism comedy, TUTA once again showcases a hitherto unpresented European voice in a sinewy, expressionistic (and, in this case, frisky) Chicago premiere. Even as the obnoxious trend of whimsy goes, this bawdy folktale is rarely taken with its own cleverness; when it presents Hitler in a shrinking-violet cameo, we know it isn’t because the play’s head has been replaced with a helium balloon.

After spending one night buried in her coffin, which her friend loans her in the play’s prelude, Masha wakes up determined her fallen soldier is still alive. Once she convinces two pals to join her (a jerkylike hag/ham performance by Hoerdemann as the saltier of the two rules the evening), the women embark on a dirt-road trip whose Carrollesque hallucinations include a talking squirrel and a screwball, viscerally scatological Joseph Stalin.

Set in a culture where wars are multiple-generation eras rather than decade-long episodes, Maria’s Field is drenched in a kind of fatigued, psychedelic sadness that germinates as comedy. By contrast to the American magic-realism trend of late, Bogaev’s fantasy is an authentic reflex to political events, rather than, say, suburban malaise. Multiple, cunningly timed literal pitfalls are particularly satisfying. And codirector Djukic inks the work with his sonic signature, the careful embedding of live and skillful pop music.

— Christopher Piatt

Finally there is this article from a Russian paper called Reklama. Though it is in Russian, someone sent us a translation which I found very flattering. In case it's not clear "Dzhenifer Bayers" is me. I have included

Vankarem Nikiforovich: "Three old women, three merry friends…" On the play "Maria's Field" by TUTA theater company:
At the end of last week, in the very center of Chicago, at the Storefront Theater, it took place: The premier of young Russian dramatist Oleg Bogaev's play "Maria's Field". This relatively uncommon drama was performed there by the TUTA theater company, which has recommended itself in recent years through original stage readings of both classical and contemporary works.

Producer/Directors of the play Lyuda Lopatin and Zheyko Dyukich saw in this piece, as conceived by the author, the possibility of a tiny fairytale which could open the bright nature of the primary characters – three centenary women from a remote village in Russia – while at the same time calling upon the audience to dwell upon the fate of the peoples of that country in the past century. These heroines of the play, these three unhappy old women living many years in an old and empty Russian hamlet, come to believe that one of them has received a vision in their sleep; that their husbands did not perish in the last terrible World War, but instead are returning and the women must go to meet them at a far off train station. It's a paradoxical situation but we, the spectators, due to the amazingly precise and interesting performances of the troupes actresses, come to believe in these characters and each of their actions.

The ensemble in this unusual work are one of the foundational merits of this play. Actress Dzhenifer Bayers completely fills the role of Masha, subjugating the audience with sincerity, truth and vulnerability. It is to this specific heroine that the vision comes, that of her young husband; and it comes just as Masha begins to die. Bayers, in the role of Masha, convinces her two friends of the validity of this vision she has experienced. And we believe it, too, as she hears what Ivans recites: "Don't you know that in death there is no old age? Not for Russian soldiers nor for their wives." Masha's two friends swallow her story whole, and all three decide to go meet their allegedly returning husbands. The actresses execute these roles admirably in a manner which emphasizes the unique features of each of each of their characters.

Serafima, played with jagged emotion by actress Kerolayn Khoderman, reacts most acutely to this news. Not all was smooth in the relations between this heroine and her husband, and in the more desperate moments during the long and arduous journey to the station she even rejects the photograph of her husband Fedke. The largest burden of compassion lies in the interpretation of actress Audre Budris in the role of Proskovia. She loves only her Grishu, even though it is later revealed that they were never formally married. "Listen girls, we must not lose their photos…" she tells the others, buttressing their faith and hope in every possible way.

The heroines of the play are always in motion. Perfectly framing the picture of these women is their cow, played expressively by young actress Dzhemilin Grey. It is played silently, only by position, by gestures, by mimicry and facial expression. Grey as the cow seems to feel all the changes of mood and situation felt by the other characters, and is amazingly organic in the way she fits into the ensemble; one example is the episode in which the old women recall and sing old war songs from their youth. But the heroines, very sensibly, look back on the past from the vantage point of their squandered hundred years… therefore their performance is found a somewhat altered verse of an otherwise known song:

"They there live - and song in that bail -
by the inviolable friendly family
Three old women, three merry friends,
the crew of the cow of combat".

The heroine's path in this play is difficult: they navigate desolate scaffolding, swamps, water hazards, are forced to sleep in trees and, at one point, nearly drown in a river. It is a must to credit designer Brendonu Vordellu, who crafted a set design which seamlessly incorporated all of these elements along with their individual components. The detailed costumes created by Natashey Vuchurovich-Dyukich are appropriate to the atmosphere of such an action-oriented landscape while, at the same time, accessible by a modern audience. Also of note is the music accompanying the play, ever supporting its tone of a paradoxical fairytale.

Taken by the very talented John Sisson, here are some

Some wide shots taken by our set designer Brandon Wardell


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks babe! It's interesting given that I'm facilitating authenticity work this weekend, no?
Jan. 29th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
That's not a line you hear every day. Leave it to the Russians...
Seriously! And yet, upon reading it, I'm like "EXACTLY!"
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
I love that you "subjugated" the audience!

Way to go. And the pix are grand.
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
cool! the set looks great.

wish I could see it!
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I wish you could see it as well...I am fond of this one.
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, fabulous -- what wonderful reviews (for a show that deserves nothing but raves!)
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks darlin'!
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing the pics and reviews, I enjoy getting the chance to peek in on your productions.
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
"sincerity, truth, and vulnerability"

I am completely convinced that this is why you were cast as Masha. Reading the play, I could see you -- hear you in the role -- full of passion, intensity, and caring. You, my dear, are awesome, and I'm delighted to see the world stepping up and taking note.

Also: "sinewy, expressionistic... and frisky"!

Congratulations to you and your co-conspirators. I am so happy for you -- I wish that I were there to give you an enormous hug.

How's that Pride point doing this week?
Jan. 29th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Yay for good reviews!! I can't wait to see it....and DAMN, the sets and costuming looks really cool!
Jan. 31st, 2009 04:23 am (UTC)
Well I certainly would enjoy being subjugated by Dzhenifer.

Great photos, great reviews and a great actress. Congrats.
Jan. 31st, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting so that those of us who couldn't make it can share a piece of it with you. Congratulations!!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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