Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Minsk,2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker”

CST_MINSK_1 To many theater audience members, a solid story is what they seek in picking a play to attend. Those into musicals prefer the big numbers with songs they can hum and those who attend theaters like Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, the classics and of course the works of “the Bard” himself. CST has a special program called “World’s Stage” and each year they bring us companies from all over the world so that we can taste what has meaning in these other lands. One of the major problems with this series is the short runs that we get. Often due to travel situations and time away from home, or in the case of their current production, “Minsk,2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker:, because the cast members are in danger. This production is 90 minutes of political artistry/theater. Presented by The Belarus Free Theatre is here in the United States despite police raids and threats. Most of their performances in Minsk are what is termed “underground” in hiding from the forces who want to stop them from spreading their political stories.

The piece ( conceived,directed and adapted by Vladimir Shcherban) with stories written and performed by the actors as an ensemble is devised to tell the world about their country and the sexual brutality and oppression by the totalitarian regime in Belarus. Some of you may recall this company being here before and being allowed to stay in Chicago to perform “being Harold Pinter” in spite of the threats of what might happen when they got home or even to those of their families while being here.

“Minsk” is a combination of experimental theater and true testimony ( near the end of the show, each member of the company shares with us something of their own personal life), and of course some very strong satire allowing them to get into our hearts and souls so that we can in some way, find a way to rid their country of this way of life. We keep hearing from politicians and statesmen that things are improving in Belarus, but once you see this story and hear what these people have to say, you will agree that this is propaganda, an din fact, over the least few years it has worsened. Their homeland, once a beautiful and wonderful place to grow up in has now become an ugly city. FYI: Kathy Acker , was a writer who inspired this company to get out and tell their story, and they do with great emotion. After all, this is not a script; this is not someone’s idea of a story they want to tell:- This is THEIR story! Their lives. When one hears the stories about where they live, how they live, their fears and concerns and the savage crimes that are committed against them just to show others why they need to listen to what they are told!CST_MINSK_2

The show is performed in Russian and Belarusian with English subtitles. For most of the audience, viewing the screen was pretty easy, but the upper seats ( rows G,H and I) had some lighting problems that caused a slight glare making the translations hard to catch. The Studio Theater, a delightful and intimate space has been designed for this show to be an elevated seating area with a flat stage and some of the floor action can be a bit difficult to see as well, but in spite of not being able to read the translations and having to creep up in my seat to catch the action, I got the story. I understood their stories and you will too. There is some music and dance and also a bit of nudity, but for art sake not for nudity to shock or be a “turn -on “.This is a show filled with intensity and great energy, telling a story that needs to be seen by the world, and these actors are willing to take the risks in order to do this.

This production is ONLY here through February 3rd with tickets at a mere $20. Navy Pier also has special parking rates- $10, so you have an opportunity to see pure art at one of the wowrld’s finest theaters for a price  close to that of a movie ticket.

To order tickets call the box office at 312-595-5600 . For times and to order online visit www.chicagoshakes.com

For info on the theater company, visit www.free belarusnow.org

To see what others say visit www.theatreinchicago.com,  go to review round-up and click on “Minsk”

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