Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Kids Are Alright in Russian Transport

If you've been following this blog, you may know that I watch a lot of Disney Channel. Phil of the Future, which ran from 2004 to 2006, was not my favorite (although it seems like a masterpiece compared to some of the latest Disney Channel shows), but it starred the likable Ricky Ullman. As Raviv Ullman (his birth name), he is making his off-Broadway debut in Russian Transport by Erika Sheffer and directed by Scott Elliott. The play also stars Janeane Garofalo, but it was Ullman that was the big draw for me and if this play is remembered for anything, I hope its for launching his New York theater career. He and Sarah Steele (wonderful in Speech and Debate) give memorable turns in an intriguing, if ultimately unsatisfying play at The New Group.

Ullman plays Alex, a teenager growing up in Brooklyn with his Russian immigrant parents, Diana (Garofalo, at times over-the-top, but mostly balancing the comic relief and role as stern matriarch) and Misha (a quietly compelling Daniel Oreskes), and his 14-year-old sister Mira (Steele). Alex has to work a job at Verizon plus help out at his father's car service to help his family pay the bills. He also sells dime bags to earn a little cash for himself. When Diana's brother Boris (an appropriately menacing and alluring Morgan Spector) comes to stay, what starts off as a family dramedy becomes a story about the sex trade. Boris asks Alex to do some work for him, but when Alex realizes that work involves picking up innocent young girls from the airport (all played by Steele), he is torn between money and doing the right thing. Ullman and Steele convincingly portray obnoxious teenagers making bad decisions while getting at their vulnerability and fear. Sheffer has written some believable dialogue, especially between arguing teen siblings. She's also mixed Russian and English, usually effectively except in one scene between Diana and Boris. (Why would they be speaking English to each other and not Russian?) But though individual scenes are strong, they don't quite make a cohesive whole and the play ends on an unresolved note.

Photo credit: Monique Carboni


fadrickvagat said...

As Raviv Ullman he is creating his off-Broadway very first in European Carry by Erika Sheffer and focused by Scott Elliott.

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yankeegirl51680 said...

I would want a blue and white tie (ok so I am a Yankee fan)