Odessa tries to shed some light, but only ends up going in circles | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

Odessa tries to shed some light, but only ends up going in circles

The production's motivation and accents disappoint.

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The Right Brain Project presents the world premiere of Michaela Heidemann's comedy-thriller based on true accounts of shakedowns and other illegal activities in the labyrinthine catacombs beneath the titular Ukrainian city. A sniveling American journalist (Logan Hulick) wakes up bloody and disoriented by the pitch black of his new surroundings. Soon he is blinded by a flashlight carried by a young Ukrainian woman named Dariya (Hannah Williams). She orders him to follow her if he has any interest in getting out of the caves alive. She harangues and mocks the American in a cartoonish approximation of a pan-eastern-European accent throughout, but her motive for tormenting him isn't revealed until we've been trapped in the dark for well over an hour and is about as convincing as her diction.

The pair crisscrosses a series of platforms and ramps and walls covered with graffiti in many languages, but mostly Ukrainian and Russian, the only light coming from their erratically swinging flashlights. This setting casts a kind of spell for the first ten or 15 minutes, but following the flitting beams soon becomes a chore, as much of the action is obscured by either lack of illumination or other audience members. I found my mind wandering more and more as the characters kept going in circles.

I came to suspect that the real reason these two are lost is not the darkness, or the political situation in either the Ukraine or the U.S., but because Heidemann has failed to fashion any exit or path out for them. Colin David directed.   v

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