“Last night I had a dream we went to Moscow…” the three of them say, numerous times, much to my delight. I didn’t though, I’m sad to say, but if I had, this would be the dream I would want, most decidedly. So don’t be Nervous to ‘Russian’ to any conclusion at all about Mommy’s Dead and They Buried Her in Moscow (not that you were…I just liked that play on words), because this contemporary whirlwind of Chekhovian dullness and boredom is overflowing with cleverly crafted musical moments and smart contradictions. It a delicious treat, wisely ‘Mashas’ itself up with a wild ride energy that is both infectious and fun, while sticking solidly to the theme of tedious countryside melancholy on overload. Quite inventively, I must add. Playing itself out wisely, on, up, down, and around a wisely designed stage inside a magnificently historic theatre, this newly crafted play/film outdoes itself, year after year, giving us all a dynamic and ridiculous riff on Anton Chekhov’s classic play Three Sisters. It’s a spiked vodka shot high, wrapped wisely in a production that magnificently captures the essence of live theatre with an excellent abundance, intoxicating us all with its high spiritedness.
With an ‘alternative’ wise title that brings to mind MCC’s “brilliantly twisted” Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, this theatre/film hybrid, created by Nervous Theatre‘s company of actors, along with The Ellen Theater in Bozeman, Montana, sits most brilliantly on the edge of spectacular, laughing and smoking seriously with pseudo solemness. With three flowers laid while the death bell chimes, I don’t know how many times, the glimpses, shadows, and honest confessions of three siblings straight into the mic flicker out with a straightforward intimacy that registers. Directed with a stellular focus by Connor Berkompas (American Coast Theater Company’s Macbeth; Nervous’ The Maids), the adaptation of Russian isolation and depression pulsates and plays with our stance, making the “just so bleak” reality of the three something far more festively bearable. Their creation trips the dynamic forward into an examination that is both fantastical and morosely compelling.
“They’re the luckiest people in the world,” Barbra sings, in a moment of outward optimism, but unbeknownst to these finely drawn outlandish characters, the creators are really commenting on all those involved in the making of this feisty and wise production. Filmed miraculously in one continuous shot by a single roaming camera, Mommy’s Dead... gets right up and personal with the actors, delivering ideas and complications that can only exist inside these three miserable people’s head. The idea resonates with preposterous sincerity, that the siblings; Irina, Masha, and Olya, played by Annabella Joy (Nervous Theatre’s The Maids), Sympathie the Clown (Theatre Out of Bounds’ Hedwig and the Angry Inch), and director Berkompas respectively, will always be miserable no matter where they are, even when happiness is close at hand. They are bound to perpetually find themselves living most miserably in that small perpetually cold remote town destined to be caged in that little square box. And like the iconic Chekhovian Russian siblings that these three are based upon, misery loves company, and these three are exactly the company they, and us, are most happy to spend time with. With a clear minded abandonment that is empathetically required, the three actors relish in the very dramatic and miserable moments given, singing about those days, my friend, and embracing the musical blond Diva within, and enthusiastically the one playing out.
These siblings, born in Russia’s vibrant capital city (loving the neon Moscow that shines a light on their desires and dreams) are bored, homesick, and far too wildly over-educated. “Knowing four languages in a town like this is an unnecessary luxury. Like having a sixth finger. We know a lot of useless things.” Mom and Dad are dead and buried; one close by, and well, as the title explains, the other, in the place they all wish to return to. They say to themselves, over and over again, “Every day we’re stuck in this town, there’s one thought left in me that gets clearer and clearer… Get the F*@K out of here and back to MOSCOW!!!” That is the one thought that keeps them going, but anyone familiar with that happy go-lucky (not) Russian playwright, Chekhov, these three will forever find themselves sitting in that little (perfectly designed) room, drinking vodka, restless like some caged migratory birds, forever wishing for that journey in search of something better to begin. “We’re not meant to be happy. Happiness belongs to future generations.” “But what if I am happy?” “You’re not.” Nuff said.
Swinging themselves around with postered miserable glee, playing the piano and lip syncing for their life, Mommy’s Dead and They Buried Her in Moscow finds effervescent joy along with something so surprisingly tender and sweet in the dark molasses that is their collective soul. Trapped inside, the three drained ‘sisters’, who don’t believe they can survive the cage that they find themselves trapped within, stay put, flinging flowers, and themselves, into the abyss. “Anything as long as its in Moscow,” they repeat to themselves, but then the yellow sunshine number dances forward and we are delivered into another world that transcends the mundane. This world premiere event, captured on The Ellen Theater’s stage live, spills out with pleasure, shining its wicked ways brightly from all those dark corners of the historic theater, giving new meaning to the idea of depressive Russian isolation. “Was that lonely woman really me?” Yes, it was and is, and for that bit of magic, one that reminds us all of the great glories of live theatre, we are truly grateful.
MOMMY’S DEAD will be live-streamed April 16, 17 and 18 and available for on-demand viewing starting April 23. Virtual tickets for MOMMY’S DEAD are $10.00, with a $25.00 option, allotting all additional profits to the actors. For more info or to purchase tickets to this event, visit NervousTheatre.com.
Nervous Theatre invites you to watch MOMMY’S DEAD on any of the live-streaming dates:
April 16 – 9:00pm EST
April 17 – 9:00pm EST
April 18 – 5:00pm EST
Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes
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