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A Gulag Mouse

Out North Contemporary Art House
Tosspot Productions

A Gulag Mouse

Arthur M. Jolly


Runs March 21 – April 7


Review by Robert Pond

This, simply put, was an experience in serious theatre by serious talent. Playwright Arthur M. Jolly and director Arlitia Jones bring to Out North’s stage A Gulag Mouse, a thriller with choices.

The Russian Gulags – forced labor camps – existed before the 1930s and as late as 1960. The labor camps were a major tool used by Stalin during his reign to repress the people of the Soviet Union. Still debated as to how harsh the camps were, most agree they were the most dehumanizing of labor camps. For the men, it must have been horrific, for the woman it had to be unimaginable.

Set during post World War II, the play takes place in a camp barrack when the four current residents have to face the addition of their new roommate. Anastasia (Jill Sowerwine) is sent to the camp for killing her abusive husband, Evgeny (Aaron Wiseman), a war hero. The barrack mates include Masha (Annia Wyndham) who is a sadistic threat and Svetlana (Tamar Shai) a detached and troubled woman. Lubov (Morgan Mitchell) is a camp guard’s prostitute, which allows her to provide extra supplies for the group, and then there is the seemingly sweet and caring Prushka – the mouse (Danielle Rabinovitch).

A Gulag Mouse is, for the most part, a well-written play and does a lot to serve the extraordinary talents of the women on the stage, a cast many directors would be jealous of.  They share and control the stage at the same time. Wyndham is America’s best import from Sweden. Her work as Masha presents a tough, cruel and fearless woman but with vulnerabilities that give us her incredible range as an actor.  Interesting was her constant nervous-like motion, never quite landing. Shai played the role of Svetlana with a jeweler’s precision. Playing the role of Svetlana close to the vest, she lurked about set clothed in mystery.  Her line delivery builds so well from her almost introspective reading to her climatic moments.  One of the great reactionary actors is Rabinovitch who constantly remains in character in her work as the quiet Prushka.  She’s one you can’t keep your eyes off very long.  When she becomes vocally involved during the latter part of the drama, the added dimension is a wonderful surprise. Mitchell as Lubov, the prostitute, was somewhat convincing in her delivery of pain and suffering, and Sowerwine was quiet believable in her work as the leader for the gang.  Character wise, we didn’t see a lot of her character’s ‘privileged’ lifestyle before coming to the camp. Sowerwine’s lines were sometimes delivered without enough color.  in the second act, however, was where her talent was impressively engaged. I was never quite sure what director Jones’ intentions were for the characters Evgeny and especially Ivanov, both played by Wiseman. That said, A Gulag Mouse was clearly and successfully a woman’s drama.

Scenic Designer Carrie Yanagawa’s set was no less than perfect. Like all good designers, Yanagawa’s setting spoke for the play without being too loud about it. Also impressive was Frank Delaney’s fight choreography, except for the gang beating up of Anastasia; it looked like a toddlers’ free for all. If this is director Arlitia Jones’ first main stage effort, she is very impressive in her directorial design; her economic choreography is noteworthy.  She understands the stage arena.

A Gulag Mouse is a very well written play about the oppressed. The theme, in variations, is not apparently over.  At the risk of being promotional, A Gulag Mouse should be near the top of your ‘must see’ list.  It was an excellent effort by the TossPot Productions and a great cast.

One Response leave one →
  1. Leon Rabinovitch permalink
    March 26, 2013

    I saw the play last Saturday and I thought it was great. The talent onstage is probably some of the best Anchorage has to offer. This gut wrenching story is raw to the core and is done magnificently by the actors, crew and set designers.

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