By Mehr Gunawardena
The audience flooded the intimate space, beaming with anticipation. The ASL interpreter was ready for action. But I left Theatre Row uninspired that night. In fact, I bought myself a plant just to feel something.
The story was seen through the eyes of a young Ukrainian girl. Her innocence and excitement for basic household items brought chuckles to the audience. It also illustrated the power of gratitude. This child experienced so many difficulties, like having to ration her own food, but she didn’t consider that a problem. She was happy. While the story and script were impressive and impactful, I didn’t think it was well executed. At first I thought Katya may have forgotten her lines because of the awkward pacing, though it improved as the show went on.
Katya’s acting was real and authentic, but it was upstaged by too many distractions. All the props, different personalities, and running around the stage made the performance messy. Individual scenes were powerful and witty, but as a whole, it felt incohesive. Staged more simply, this play has the potential to be truly impactful and uplifting.
Her acting really came to life when her character moved to America, or as she saw it, the land of gum, bananas, and cereal. This is when she began to feel her hardships. Being a refugee in New York City is a difficult thing, especially when you don’t know the language or understand the culture. She wonders whether it is “better to be homeless or stay in your homeland.” The wrath of ignorant and xenophobic children makes her want to assimilate. Her thick Ukrainian accent slowly fades, but so does her confidence in her identity. “Nobody helps” until she meets a teacher whose kindness and acceptance allows her to feel proud of her roots. This pushes her towards becoming a proud, confident woman.
Katya occasionally stops at what she calls the “Education Station” to tell us about history, geography, and other factual information we need to know. Whether she explains the difference between Russia and Ukraine or anything else, her sarcastic and witty remarks make these educational sessions interactive and speedy.
The show was well written and performed, despite a few issues with direction that made it seem disjointed and slow. With a few tweaks, I think that it can be a stellar show that tells a powerful story.
“Made in the USSR”
Written and Performed by Katya Dudina
Oct. 3 at 9pm, Oct. 12 at 7:30pm
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
MEHR GUNAWARDENA is a writer from Sri Lanka who pursued her education and ambition in the United States. During her time at Clark University, she began experimenting with form and structure to make her writing as accessible as possible to all readers, while keeping true to her voice. She enjoys writing poetry and other fictional pieces with political and societal nuances, and is therefore drawn towards art with similar intentions.