In 2014, Writer/Director/Designer Dmitry Krymov signed a collective letter of Russian workers that condemned the annexation of Crimea by Russia and was pressured to leave the Moscow School of Dramatic Art. Winter 2022 found him in Philadelphia where he denounced the invasion of Ukraine and refused to return home. This is the first production of his company Krymov LabNYC founded in 2022.
Billed as Three Love Stories Near the Railroad, these one-acts reflect only a surrealist nod to original writing. The production looks great – curious and fun. All actors are multi-talented. Narrator/ musician Jackson Scott plays splendid guitar intermittently throughout and actress/vocalist Annie Hägg is well worth seeing sing elsewhere on her own.
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway: Out of cut, punched and torn, leaning corrugated cardboard sheets, the guitarist pulls an x-shape collapsible base and a flat circle which makes a small table. From a heap of scraps, he uncovers a folding chair and a suitcase- which, with bent cardboard, creates a second chair. We’re told this is a canteen at a railroad station. A toy locomotive rides an elevated track upstage. Sound effects are terrific. We’re in Spain.
Kwesiu Jones, Shelby Flannery
A nicely dressed couple sit, talk, loudly argue about who knows what, and order what passes for drinks from a fool-like waiter in a dress (Jeremy Radin). They complain about the heat. A handsome African American (Kwesiu Jones) expansively, sinuously dances around them rubbing up against the woman who flushes. He lifts and twirls her; sits at her feet. The husband is oblivious. The couple argue. He says he wants her to be happy. She clearly isn’t. The men fight – though the stranger is invisible. The program says she’s pregnant. What works here besides good acting are imaginative visuals. The script is so loosey goosey it seems improvised.
Canary for One (Ernest Hemingway): takes place in a train car and at station stops. A platform with teeter-totter base is rocked by the actors. An American woman dressed like The Madwoman of Chaillot (Annie Hägg) sits beside her canary in a pretty white cage half filled with yellow feathers. There are feathers everywhere. She’s transporting the bird home to a daughter pining for love. Across from her is a married couple, one American, one foreigner (Shelby Flannery, Tim Eliot). The piece is narrated by Jeremy Radin.
Annie Hägg, Tim Eliot, Shelby Flannery
As they travel to Paris, a length of sheeting with sketches of scenery is unspooled across the back of the stage. “My grandson Schlomo wanted to get into show business,” the narrator explains indicating a stagehand. The bird lady is friendly (and guilty), the other woman polite, the man preoccupied. Passing landscape offers odd happenings. Day turns to night and then day. The couple explains why they’re in Paris. Actors are excellent; visuals droll. Of the three, this story comes through most clearly.
Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O’Neill: “A father, a stepmother and a son struggle to find understanding and a home in a land as hard and unforgiving as they themselves are,” says the program. Like the other plays, this is stylized. Two old iron bedsteads, two rooms, two men (Kwesiu Jones and Tim Eliot) strapping on 18” stilts, one with the help of his young wife, the other’s stepmother (Shelby Flannery). She dresses her husband, a dandy, who abuses her and exits.
The woman eventually passes through a (corrugated) door declaring romantic love for her brooding stepson. He keeps slapping her to the floor. Until he doesn’t. When she hits back, he falls and has to get up attached to the leg contraption. It’s almost a dance. The piece is a bit too long, but again, actors are wonderful, set and costumes very fine.
Shelby Flannery, Tim Eliot
I’m told that whereas American clowning translated itself into buffoonery with heavy make-up and aggrandized costume, and is used to fill voids in a production, Russian clowning delves into human psychology more in tune with an acting craft. These are a prime example. An odd evening of original sensibility and somewhat obtuse storytelling.
Also with Erich Rausch – drum and clarinet
Photos Courtesy of the production
Opening: Tim Eliot, Annie Hägg, Jeremy Radin, Shelby Flannery
Three Love Stories
Writer/Director- Dmitry Krymov
La Mama Experimental Theatre Club
66 East 4th Street
Through October 15, 2023