By David Walters
“How can you talk about the beauty of Russian culture?” an actor screams while throwing a tomato at the storyteller. “It’s disgusting!” I clutch my child puppet with the missing limb closer to me for comfort as his striking words enter my being.
This performance is completely SOLD OUT but there will be a waitlist before every show if you’re adventurous. Click HERE for when shows are and you can take your chances.
This is theater that will enter your eyes, your head, your heart, and your soul.
Dmitry Krymov (writer/director of Big Trip) was/is one of Russia’s preeminent directors. He left Russia on a scheduled trip to direct a play in Philadelphia the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, with only a small bag in hand. He has not returned. Dmitry, along with several other of Russia’s most famous artists penned letters in protest of the invasion and are now all exiled, no longer welcome to return home. He is beginning a new chapter in his life here in the United States and we are oh so very fortunate.
Dmitry creates what has been termed, “theatre of the artist,” and what I call, “theater of space and being.” In his work, space is created for life to pour into; artistic life, story life, world life, and our lives. There is space in his productions for the exploration of the specific (the way a feather floats, the way a puppet feels to an audience member, the chewing of bread). There is space for what is happening both on stage and in the audience, what is and has happened to the actors in their lives, what is a breath or holding thereof, agitation, space to be comfortable cozy and warm, and always delving into the wonder that is live theatre. Dmity’s writing and directing creates poetry in the space between stage and audience, engagement, never forgetting that we are all here together.
His two current offerings at La Mama, Big Trip 1: Pushkin “Eugene Onegin” in our own words, and Big Trip 2: Three love stories near the railroad, play with classic literature and dive into pools filled with cultures, relationships, and languages. Big Trip is the umbrella title of the two presentations (on two separate nights). The works that are examined are by Pushkin, Hemingway, and O’Neill. They all become bigger than life with Krymov’s unique twists and insight.
One evening is Pushkin “Eugene Onegin” in our own words. Pushkin is known in Russia as the artist who gave freedom to the Russian language and is said to be untranslatable into English, as English is already free. But non-the-less it’s a tremendous evening of storytelling dealing with 19th century Russian society and unrequited love.
The other evening is Three love stories near the railroad. Love in that it is many things: pain, passion, purgatory, pleasure, and pathos. Deconstructing two of Hemingway’s short stories, Hills Like White Elephants and A Canary for One. Both of these stories deal with the end of relationships. Hills in that a couple are debating an abortion and the effect it will have on their relationship, and Canary, in that a woman is traveling alone after a disastrous relationship and ends up in a train car with a stiff married couple. The third love story is drawn from O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms which is a love triangle between a father, a son, and a stepmother, and the tragedy arises from the misguided actions made by the stepmother. The concentration in this piece is on the passion. Passion that was eight feet tall as the actors performed on stilts.
The emphasis of this type of theater is storytelling. “Sit down and let me tell you a story.” The essence of what theater is and in some ways I felt like I was returning home. Returning to where I had come from, where it all began for me.
We don’t often get the opportunity, as there is so much on offer for live events in this city, to experience points of view from deeply rooted theatrical traditions besides our own. Dimitri Krymov’s residence in our city is a gift and something to look forward to.
BIG TRIP –
Adapted, Written, and Directed by DMITRY KRYMOV
La MaMa presents Krymov Lab NYC‘s production of Big Trip at the Ellen Stewart Theater, 66 East 4th Street, running September 24-October 15.
Cast: Natalie Battistone, Kweslu Jones, Jeremy Radin, Jackson Scott, Elizabeth Stahlmann, Anya Zicer, Tim Elliot, Shelby Flannery, Annie Hagg, and Erich Rausch
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.