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by Les Gutman
Pasha drops, quite literally, into the lives of Shura (Amelia Campbell), and her boyfriend, Boris (Chris Kipiniak). Shura, once a dermatologist, is now a manicurist; Boris, once a paratrooper, is now an enforcer for the loan-sharking operations of a Russian mafia boss (Stan Lachow). Boris' grandmother (Irma St. Paule) sells Russian drugs from a pushcart. How does Pasha fit into this? It's worth seeing the show to find out.
Lipkin's telling of this story is astutely crafted, and his dialogue is always sharp. He gets sidetracked some when other characters come into the mix -- there is a cast of eight -- and he never really justifies their presence. This is particularly true of Boris' brother, Andre (Matthew Dellapina), whose only real purpose seems to be supplying half of a terrific duet with Pasha in the second act. (Yes, the show includes two songs -- the other sung in the first act by Ms. St. Paule -- and boasts a DJ (Brian Gottesman) as well.) The final character is Boris' sidekick, who has the peculiarly non-Russian name, Jackson (Larry Bloch). Some tightening and/or fleshing out would make this into a play I could unreservedly commend.
Director Adam Melnick has assembled a very fine cast, and has providing a staging which is very much in synch with the show's tone. All of the show's design elements are also intelligent.
Mr. Kanor is alternately charming, endearing and menacing. As his foil (more or less), Mr. Kipiniak is especially effective in conveying the sense of a Russian immigrant who is fighting hard to find his way in America without a great quantity of grace to fall back on. Ms. Campbell is a fine actress who understands Shura's nature even if she hasn't quite the same facility with the Russian dialect that Kipiniak displays. One of the real joys of this production is the excellent work displayed by the older cast members: Ms. St Paule as the priceless babushka, Mr. Block as the smarter and funnier half of the keystone cops duo he makes up with Boris and Mr. Lachow as the dapper, combustible Boss. Matthew Dellapina is as impressive as he can be in a role that is somewhat thankless, and Mr. Gottesman does well as both the onstage musician/DJ and also as the "voice" of the Mexican soap opera to which Shura is oddly addicted.
Playwrights are always told "write what you know," and it's clear Mr. Lipkin succeeds by doing so, and marrying it with a healthy dose of imagination.
Dmitry Lipkin's Cranes
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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