By Christopher Popple
“OTOSOTR” is the second war story I’ve seen at the United Solo Theatre Festival, and it easily outdoes the first in theatrical spectacle. Bright LED lights shine behind Anatoliy Ogay, who stands at his keyboard with a placid expression. His eyes drill into you as he recreates the experiences of his grandfather, a World War II veteran, through scenes and music. Mr. Ogay’s multimedia production is an unflinching emotional ride.
In an interview with All About Solo, Mr. Ogay said, “I felt it was my duty to capture my grandfather’s story about deported Koreans in 1937, about his way from Soviet Kazakhstan to Nazi Berlin during World War II, and about those who manage to preserve their identity in an alien country. Today, this question of who you truly are, and what your roots are, is extremely important as we move from ‘I am a member of my community’ towards ‘I am a citizen of the world.’”
Although you may want to look down every now and then to give your retinas a break from the strobe lighting effects, Mr. Ogay’s performance is energetic and highly dramatic. In the first scene, he rhythmically punctuates selected words, as though at a poetry slam. He proceeds to play a host of characters in a variety of scenarios. Mr. Ogay effortlessly flips the switch from introspective grandson to obnoxiously upbeat millennial vlogger, and exhibits fantastic range. In one scene, Mr. Ogay slams his head into his keyboard and keeps it there during a period of silence. He repeats the gesture a few scenes later, now with a strobing red light emanating from his keyboard.
Like many war stories, “On the Other Side of the River” impresses upon you just how frightening and even opaque the realities of war can be. The show certainly leaves a lasting impression, and Mr. Ogay’s writing, musical compositions and presentation are unique. What stuck with me most is not what was said but what was felt. Mr. Ogay makes war feel like a whirlwind of emotions, of ups and downs. Mostly downs. But Mr. Ogay believes that “no matter the thickness of the clouds, the sun is always there. This is a story about one small ethnic group somewhere in the steppes of Central Asia, but more than this, it is a story about humanity, love, respect and dignity.”
“OTOSOTR (On the Other Side of the River)”
Written and Performed by Anatoliy Ogay
Oct. 27 at 4pm
Director & Producer: Tatyana Kim
Co-Producer: Galina Kiryan
Photos by Tatyana Kim, courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHRISTOPHER POPPLE is a Monmouth University graduate and budding reviewer.