Stars In The Morning Sky, European Repertory Company. It's rare to find a single theatrical image so compelling, heartfelt, and passionate that it can make an acceptable evening of theater unforgettable. But that's precisely what happens in this production of Alexander Galin's 1986 drama about Soviet prostitutes during the 1980 Olympics.
The play's based on a bizarre historical fact: during the Moscow Olympics, as a face-saving measure, the city shipped its prostitutes out of town. Set near a mental hospital in a sort of barracks where the women have been confined, Galin's play chronicles the melodramatic interactions of several intriguing ladies of the evening, the mental patient who falls for one of them, and their temporary landlady, who tries to give their lives some semblance of order.
Ably translated by Peter Christensen and European Repertory Company director Yasen Peyankov, the script is familiar but consistently absorbing thanks to some excellent performances, notably from Dado as an aging, vodka-sodden hooker and the terrifyingly convincing Pat Caldwell as an innocent whose betrayal and tragic fate come to represent all the corruption and fierce competition of Russian society in the 80s. There are some sporadic cartoonish moments and a not altogether convincing climax full of violence and chaos, but these flaws pale during the play's sublime final moments, when performance, set design, and lighting converge to create an image that more than justifies everything that's come before.