By Constance Rodgers
All Roads Lead to the Kurski Station is a stylized black box piece that follows the hallucinatory journey of Vienya (Elliot Morse) from Kurski Station, Moscow to Petushki to meet his love. “I am an orphan of Siberia,” Vienya says as his alcohol fueled trip keeps circling back to the Kurski Station. Everything that happens in All Roads Lead to the Kurski Station happens in Vienya’s mind, sometimes during the process of getting wasted, sometimes while passed out, sometimes hungover, but all imagined. However, the torments and doubts Vienya sees were the real torments and doubts of the Soviet Union and are the real torments and doubts of Russia today. “What about the States?” ask the Angels (Rivers Duggan and Mia Vallet) and we are transported to Trump’s inauguration speech as we all squirm knowing the States’ torments and doubts are becoming more and more like those of Russia’s. Morse’s Trump is hilarious, capturing the frat boy adolescent quality and hyperbolic pronunciations of a narcissistic despot.
All Roads Lead to the Kurski Station could serve as a cautionary tale about alcohol abuse and is at its best when it plays with Vienya’s, and Russia’s, impressive alcohol use. In one scene Vienya is protected by his Angels as he sets up an altar to alcohol; his counting and naming his bottles becomes a prayer, an ode to their powers and punishments. Vienya says everyone thinks he is a bad man, and in the mornings, when he is hungover, he agrees with them. The overall power of the vodka is the power to distract without pulling a veil over our eyes, without allowing us to drift into pretty fantasies. There is nothing delusional or pretty about Vienya’s hallucinations. He is never released from the knowledge of the pointlessness of his life, or of how unworthy he is. For Russia at large we are told it is the same. Vienya explains, the peasants drink because they can’t read, and there is nothing else sold in the markets. The government and intelligentsia drink because they feel sorry for the peasants. Life is a vicious circle of pain, guilt, fear and punishment, both super-imposed on us by the powers that be and visited upon ourselves by our weaknesses, but as Vienya is told by his Angels, we all must, “Keep going. Keep going. Get up and go.”
Elliot Morse is excellent as the scared, drunk Vienya, moving in and out of lucidity and with a physical life that is natural, yet large enough for the stage. Mia Vallet and Rivers Duggan are each fine as the Angels (or Furies, as the director says in his notes). Vallet uses her body with abandon and seductiveness; Duggan is more staid and formal. Directorially Varda could have played with Vallet and Duggan’s differences to each of their advantage, portraying two different types of Angels. The piece lacks a necessary primalness that would allow us to witness the play emotionally. The Angel/Furies do not comfort or scare or warn strongly enough. Their face make-up and actions are just a nod to the surrealism we are told the play has. The Angels’ costumes are distracting, reminding me of actual Russian peasant dresses. In the spirit of Grotowski’s Poor Theatre I wish the women’s costumes had less of a likeness to actual Russian dress, therefore forcing the actors to evoke Russia and other images, such as demons, inquisitors, comforters and lovers in their faces, bodies and voices.
A Varda Studio Production:
Artistic Director – Varda; Producing Director – Reed Ridgley; Associate Artistic Director – Mia Vallet
All Roads Lead to the Kurski Station, adapted and directed by Varda, is loosely based on the Russian novel, Moscow Circles, by Vienya Erofeev (banned and published clandestinely in 1969).
Starring: Elliot Morse, Rivers Duggan, Mia Vallet
Lighting: David Palmer
Music: Scott Griffin
Here Arts Center 145 6th Avenue (enter on Dominick St.) Oct 9-21, Tues-Sat 7PM Sun 2PM, Tickets $25, Running Time 70 mins, For tickets 212 352 3101, online, or at the box office open 2 hours before any performance.