Have you gotten sick of spending your weekends on campus? Maybe its time you get a little culture. The University of Mary Washington is only an hour or so from some of the best regional theaters in the country.
Some of these theaters are the breeding grounds for new works of theatre and for little more than you would pay to see a concert in D.C., you could see one of these new plays, like “Brother Russia,” which made its world premiere at Signature Theater in Arlington on March 6.
With a book and lyrics by John Dempsey and music by Dana Rowe, the same team that wrote “The Witches of Eastwick” and “The Fix,” “Brother Russia” is an unusual yet captivating work, commissioned by Signature Theatre.
At first glance, the story might sound odd: Brother Russia, an old man who thinks he is the reincarnation of the fabled Russian monk Grigori Rasputin and his run down traveling theater troupe are running out of money and fear that tonight may be their last show.
Brother Russia decides to change what they usually do and present a musical based on his past life as Rasputin. This creates a “show within a show” situation which can be hard to follow at times but is ultimately interesting. Brother Russia takes some of his own liberties in the piece, and not everything plays out exactly as it did in history, something one of his fellow actors points out later in the show.
The show has songs that run the gamut from being serious, like “Matryoshka” to those which are silly and almost out of place like “Vodka,” which seemed more like a random interlude and a commercial for Stoli Vodka than a crucial part of the plot.
Presented on a thrust stage, all seats are close to the action. This draws the audience in and helps them feel as if they are part of the action.
For those familiar with the D.C. Theater scene, many actors in the cast may be familiar. Playing the title role of Brother Russia, John Lescault, manages to leave the audience wondering whether he really is the reincarnation of Rasputin or just a crazy old man.
Doug Kreeger is both charming and at the same time dangerous as Sascha/Grigori Rasputin. Kreeger shows off his vocal ability in the role and keeps the audience hooked on his unique character.
Natascia Diaz is captivating playing Sofya/Anastasia and has great chemistry with onstage love interest Kreeger.
If you want to see this amazing new work of art, do it soon. The show is closing on April 15 there are no further productions announced as of yet.