For many, just spending time in the Strawdog Theatre space to read the informative displays about the Holodomor will make the trip to see Red Theater’s production of SICKLE worthwhile. If you—like this writer and also the play’s director Elizabeth Lovelady we learn in the program, have never heard the term before—you are not alone.
Red Theater Introduces Us to a New Barbarism
Sharing a space of the shelf where human barbarities like holocausts and genocides are filed, “holodomor” refers to the specific Stalinist invention of systematically starving the UkraInian population being absorbed into the Soviet Union. Against the backdrop of forced collectivization of peasants’ farms, men were killed or hauled off to Siberia, and women were left to farm and meet the impossibly high production quotas set by the Soviet masters. It was a slow starvation and it ended with black flags going up on village after village, signaling that all who had lived there were now starved to death. Along the way cannibalism reigned in many quarters. Broken and starved, many in the population became insane.
Difficult though it is to imagine what these horrors felt like on the ground, that is exactly what playwright Abbey Fenbert sets out to do in her script Sickle. The five actresses in this cast give it their all. We are left with a somewhat sick feeling in our stomach, having sat with the subject matter for more than 90 minutes. For this writer though, the attempts by this script to give an unthinkable an everyday reality some how didn’t add up, and at many points bogged us down in backstories without seeming purpose. That said it’s good to know though, that there are layers in the Russia vs. Ukraine stories of today that we hadn’t imagined. Knowing yet another chapter in humanity’s cruelty may help sober us to anticipate a greater range of human possibilities.
Director: Elizabeth Lovelady
ANNA: Moira Begale
IRYNA: Christine Vrem-Ydstie
HALKA: Catherine Dvorak
NADYA: Katherine Bourne
YASIA: Brittany Ellis
Thru July 29
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 8 PM (No performance July 5)
Sundays 4:00 PM
Added performances: Monday July 2 and Monday July 9
1802 W Berenice Ave
Chicago, IL 60613