THE RUSSIAN PLAYS: THE RUSSIAN PLAY AND USSR by Hannah Moscovitch, directed by Natasha Mytnowych. Presented by Company Theatre Crisis and Absit Omen Theatre at Harbourfront Centre Studio Theatre (235 Queens Quay West). Opens Wednesday (February 21) and runs to February 25 as part of the HATCH performance series. $20. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
Though the russian play was received more warmly than free vodka on a ration queue, playwright Hannah Moscovitch and director Natasha Mytnowych were still unsettled by the SummerWorks buzz that earned their original work the fest's outstanding production jury prize.
"Secretly, Natasha and I were surprised that it received so much attention," Moscovitch marvels. "The Russian Play is meta-theatrical, a dark fable for adults, with an onstage abortion. Maybe that desperation attracts."
Also voted a host of other prizes, including outstanding direction and design, Moscovitch's play, written in a single draft in a single day, captured the imagination of local and national theatre audiences, earning it three more Toronto runs and a spot in Ottawa's eminent Magnetic North Theatre Festival.
Moscovitch and Mytnowych have had to adjust their Stalinist fairy tale to make the transition from 60-seat houses to the Studio Theatre's 200 seats. The shift involved polishing the script, increasing the cast from two to three and adding a lighting designer (Kimberly Purtell) and choreographer (Monica Dottor).
But it wasn't enough for the dynamic indie writer-director team to prepare The Russian Play for Hatch, the emerging performers series at Harbourfront. They're also making a new theatrical offering, which is where USSR, their 20-minute one-woman show, comes in.
"With USSR, Natasha and I wanted to work on something grittier and more contemporary. We wanted to take a hammer to the fairy-tale dirty-beautiful Europe we'd created in The Russian Play. We ended up writing about a specific woman."
Though Moscovitch won't divulge much about the short piece featuring the charismatic Maev Beaty, she does say a "dramatic incident" spurs the bride to defend herself against Canadian culture.
Much less romantic than their first play, USSR promises to peel away the layers of our polite political surfaces and cut to the core of a rarely seen immigrant reality.