NOT MY STORY by Silvija Jestrovic, directed by Dragana Varagic, with Cynthia Ashperger, Hume Baugh, Jason Jazrawy, Rena Polley, Gregory Thomas and Varagic. Presented by April Productions at Artword Theatre (75 Portland). Runs to November 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $18-$25, stu $10 (Tuesday-Thursday), Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723 ext 290. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Being an artist is tough under normal circumstances, but what's it like if you're also uprooted from your home and culture? In Not My Story , Silvija Jestrovic looks at four artists who are struggling to reinvent themselves after moving from Eastern Europe to North America, resulting in lots of funny and poignant truths.
Art historian Lela ( Cynthia Ashperger ), photographer Nena ( Rena Polley ) and actor Sonya ( Dragana Varagic ) are living in Toronto, and when their friend Sasha ( Hume Baugh ), a filmmaker living in New York, arrives to capture their lives in a documentary, they scramble to make themselves look successful.
It's a classic, almost sitcom-ish scenario, but Jestrovic layers it with rich, authentic details about humiliating auditions and romantic notions about refugee art. One of the funniest, and most honest, sequences is Nena's revelation that she wasn't oppressed in her homeland and really came to Toronto for the terrific bagels with smoked salmon.
Although the women are friends, not sisters, there are obvious allusions to Chekhov's Three Sisters. There's the same tragicomic tone throughout, never felt more strongly than when Sonya and the scheming Italian painter Giuseppe ( Greg Thomas ) dance around high while admitting their failures to each other.
The script's episodic, fragmented feel reflects the fragmented quality of these characters' lives. Director Varagic handles the scenes nicely, especially in a couple of extended monologues and the dramatic high point, a showdown between Lela and Sasha.
The play sports one of the strongest ensembles this season, Ashperger all proud and powerful, Polley quixotic and intuitive, Varagic torn between laughter and tears. Though in smaller roles, the men - also playing displaced characters - are equally good.