“SLAVS!” win over audience

SMU SLAVS 10/22/13
“Slavs!” debuted at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Margo Jones Theatre to positive audience reception.

The Margo Jones Theatre was filled Wednesday night with people eager to see the debut of the Meadows’ production of “Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness.”

Directed by Rhonda Blair, professor in the Division of Theatre, the play is performed by students in the Meadows Division of Theatre.

The few who couldn’t obtain a ticket stared crestfallen as snow fakes — fake snow, that is — collected in the audience.

The play is by Tony Kushner, a self-described “man of the left,” and is a hilarious and layered meditation on the disappointment of Russian Socialism.

The actors perform superbly, coloring in the full face of a failing USSR.

Mrs. Domik (Lauren Mishoe) is a profane mother to a girl with birth defects, a consequence of the Soviet nuclear program.

Mishoe is an intimidating presence on stage, every gaze and curse bullying the crowd to laugh or tense up.

Meanwhile, “Poppy” (Russell Jones) is a suit-and-tie sad sack yearning for the affection of a tough lesbian.

Barbie Wu shines here as Katherina, a bawdy drunk made insecure by her reluctant lover, Bonfila the doctor (Kelsey Smith).

Wu and Smith share the racier scenes in this production, chugging vodka, praying for vodka, and passionately making out between sips of vodka.

Their chemistry onstage is easily the highlight of the performance.

Rivaling their chemistry is the banter between Serge and Aleksii, wizened dreamers let down by the reality of Soviet Russia.

Fun fact: Aleskii’s middle name Antedeluvianovich is Russian for “before the fall,” ideal for an old man complaining about the old days.

Andrew Gonzales and Joshua Kumler shine in their roles respectively, doddering anxiously debating the outcome of the nation’s affairs.

Special mentions go to Alyssa Hamedi as Vodya Domik.

Her vacant eyes and dead body language smartly set up the audience for the weight of her brief speaking performance near the end.

The audience that night gave a standing ovation.

“I was pleased with the performances, the set, everything,” said Austin Johnson, Ph.D. student in the English department.

The good reception pleases the cast, who started rehearsing the play three weeks before school, said Gonzales.

“I’m happy with how it turned out.”

“Slavs!” will continue to be shown in the Margo Jones Theatre Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for students, faculty and staff.

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