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Review: МАРНІ ТРОЯНДИ (FUTILE ROSES) Bears Witness to War

Ochre House Theater crafted a heartbreaking, yet beautiful story of the survival of family while also bringing attention to the crisis happening in Ukraine.

by Emily Short  Apr. 22, 2022

Original Futile Roses posterIn today's world, it's easier than ever to access information. We have the ability to instantaneously research almost any topic imaginable, which we often use when we need to look up a recipe, check the score of a sporting event, or make a dinner reservation. When periodically using our unlimited access to learn about the world, it makes us feel like we're in-the-know and doing what we can to be involved in the betterment of society. Although staying informed can be helpful, it too easily gives us the privilege of closing the tab, disallowing worldly conflicts from infiltrating our current thoughts and feelings. Ochre House Theater has taken what we all know as a headline and realized it. OHT's third installment of their IN THE GARDEN series, Марні троянди (FUTILE ROSES), is an opportunity to hear the voice of war, look terror in the eyes, and stop allowing what's happening in Ukraine to remain a headline.

Ochre House Theater is a small and inviting space. There are a few rows of seats, some of them elevated on risers. The set spans wide and surrounds the seating area, inviting the audience into the world of the performance. The first moments of Марні троянди (FUTILE ROSES) were intense. Images of war were projected on the walls, and war zone sounds were blaring from the surrounding speakers. These frightening projections combined with the talent of Sound Engineer Justin Locklear harshly reminded the audience that this wasn't just a night at the theater; it was an opportunity to acknowledge the horrible truths of what is happening in our world. After these opening moments of the show, it was clear that we were sitting in the midst of a war zone, and our only option was to witness its ruthless attempts to tear a family apart.

This one-act play is not meant to replace the real experiences of the people of Ukraine; rather, it is meant to give a glimpse into what a family could be suffering right at this very moment, and what your own family might suffer if it was happening to you. Kevin Grammer did an exceptional job writing a window, allowing us to peek through and learn from an experience we are too easily able to ignore. His creation of nuanced, relatable characters was effective; they were loving, troubled, angry, brave, afraid, and most of all, resilient. The actors' passionate and vulnerable performances, and how they shared their pain through beautiful poetry, allowed the audience to get to know them and their crumbling world, and this is what made the performance so successful.

The four characters in the performance brilliantly worked together to bring this story to life. We first met Natasha, played by Managing Director Carla Parker, who seemed lost and lonely. Parker's portrayal of this mother, struggling with challenges beyond the war, was heartbreaking. As the other two members of her family-her husband, Sergei, and their daughter, Kiki-arrived in the rubble-filled hiding space, there were moments of grief, because of the continuation of the war outside, and relief, because of their ability to find each other in the midst of terror. Sergei, portrayed by Brian Witkowicz, was a clearly caring man struggling to understand his role in this war. Just like his wife, he was fighting a battle within himself, and Witkowicz's authentic performance communicated this extremely well. The third family member, Kiki, passionately performed by Quinn Coffman, added a layer of perspective that brought me to tears. Her monologue was gut wrenching yet inspiring, and her commitment to this role was admirable. Looking in Coffman's eyes as her character spoke her horrible truth felt like looking the war in the eyes, only the war was a woman my age, now a soldier, staring back at me. The talent of these three actors forced the audience to feel connected to their experiences and confronted the audience with an invading thought: this could happen anywhere.

The fourth character was The Voice, and although we never laid eyes on it, The Voice wasn't just a voice-it was the war. Denys Lyubimov, a Ukrainian voice actor, periodically filled the theater with ominous noise as he spoke horrors of war into the lives of the family.





The Voice haunted the family, the performance, and all of us in the audience. Lyubimov's contribution to this show was incredibly impactful and necessary. Without The Voice, the war would have only been the setting of the story, and the war isn't the setting, it's the reason.

Of course the actors were the major focus of the performance, but the set, created by Matthew Posey and Izk Davies, provided a visual context that transported the audience to the family's hiding space. There was manufactured rubble all on the sides of the stage, Ukrainian graffiti scattered around the backdrop, and as the war zone cityscape continuously played on the theater walls, it was impossible to ignore the reality of this war.

Ochre House Theater crafted a heartbreaking, yet beautiful story of the survival of family while also bringing attention to a crisis that is happening in the world right now. Don't just click through headlines and choose to close the tab; buy a ticket to ?oeарн?- троянди (FUTILE ROSES) and force yourself to witness this family's struggle. The performance will be available in film, directed by Josh D. Jordan. In the meantime, the talented Quinn Coffman recommends donating what you are able to A Chance in Life, a non-profit organization that supports families and individuals in Ukraine.


Ochre House Theater April 20-23 & 27-30. Purchase tickets through the Ochre House Theater website. Run time: 35-40 minutes. To learn more about the amazing talent behind the scenes, read the digital program here.

Photo Credit: Ochre House Theater