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Another Maria's Field Review

This view of my current show, from the Chicago Tribune, is less flattering in general but I like to post all the reviews to offer a diverse picture of the works with which I'm involved.

I found the title of the review interesting, since the "real Russians" who have seen the show have said that they loved the piece and have given us glowing feedback, including the playwright himself (the playwright is not a she as Mr. Jones suggests).

I will give Jones this, he is correct that the tone of the show was a directorial choice which the actors committed to. We (the actors) were playing the work as though it were one big tragedy when we first began but then moved into the world of dark, surrealist comedy. I stick by my directors though (particularly after reading some of Bogaev's other works). I think they were/are on target and Bogaev seems to have agreed.

I have pasted the entire text.

Soviet history is interesting, but let real Russians tell it
THEATER REVIEW: "Maria’s Field" ★★
Through Feb. 22 at Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Tickets: $25 at 312-742-8497 or www.dcatheater.org.

Like a lot of relatively young Russian writers, Oleg Bogaev is trying to make sense of the Soviet era into which she was born. Demonstrably, it ain’t easy.

From this chronological vantage point, the machinations and altered realities that once made up the Party, the Cold War, Perestroika and so on must seem to those who live in present-day Russia like a weird fever dream—a surreal trip into Orwellian absurdity. No wonder the play “Maria’s Field” turned out that way.

The best part of Bogaev’s problematic but still laudably progressive new drama, produced here in its first time outside Russia, is that it introduces us to three peasant women whose lives float in and out of the era. The women are all waiting for their husbands to return from war. They wait. They run into Stalin and Hitler and other icons of their younger days. They run around a little. They try to get a handle on what on earth is going on, and whom or what they can trust. And they wait some more.

Waiting, of course, was a major component of the old Soviet days, as was the difficulty of procuring actual facts. To that extent, “Maria’s Field” is onto something. The characters are poignant and are stuck in a bog—one that might also be recognizable to anyone with extensive dealings with certain state or federal authorities.

But the stylization doesn’t work as well in this new downtown production by the progressive Chicago company TUTA. As played by Carolyn Hoerdemann, Jennifer Byers and Audre Budrys (Jaimelyn Gray plays a likable cow that joins them), the three women are lively archetypes when it would surely be more effective if they were real, throbbing humans lost in a landscape that fails to recognize their humanity.

That’s not the fault of the actresses. The show is just directed that way by Luda Lopatina and Zeljko Djukic. And thus while you appreciate the ideas and the richness of the imaginative landscape—and, indeed, some of the visual ideas of the directors—you’re left with nothing human to grab. There are a couple of exceptions, mostly involving the minor characters, when the heart of the show beats with a little more emotional truth. But too much of the time, the metaphors seem stale and the production never gets up much of a head of dramatic steam.

I’ve seen one too many plays about the roller coaster ride of Soviet-era absurdity. I find the people who lived through that era more interesting.

~Chris Jones


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 3rd, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
What an odd review -- it sounds like he doesn't so much object to the performance as the existence of the play. "I'm so tired of Russian surrealism..."

Wasn't it the Tribune reviewer who wrote "Oh, Romeo and Juliet, *yawn*. Seen it before... whatever". Maybe the Trib could hire some less-jaded reviewers who want to go see the plays they're reviewing?

It's exciting that you've had some Real Russians to offer an alternate re/view =)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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