Review: ‘Putin On Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show)’ by Single Carrot Theatre and The Acme Corporation

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By Brandon Block

We’re in a long, dark, monastic chamber. A white marble bust of Putin sits against dark red drop-banners that are just barely not swastikas, instead featuring a black outline of a television. Where are we, exactly? Unclear, but we’re here to experience “Putin.”

Here’s all you need to know about “Putin:” it is a “non-corporeal entity that transcends time and space.” More importantly, it “can only be experienced, not understood.”

The cast of ‘Putin on Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show).’ Photo courtesy of Single Carrot Theatre.

The show Putin On Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show), by Playwright Lola B. Pierson and directed by Yury Urnov, (created in collaboration by The Acme Corporation and Single Carrot Theatre), exists corporeally on stage for a discrete 75 minutes, cataloging Putin’s seminal influence on world culture, cycling madly through scenes from Shakespeare and Chekhov, tableaus from WWI and the Harlem Renaissance, annotating each like a drunken professor, reeling recklessly through the canon, and now just making things up: did you know the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was actually Putin? (Cue the video evidence).

Delivering the information are nine figures, or Putins (party Putin, drag Putin, religious Putin, etc), who encircle the stage to educate, initiate, and indoctrinate us with the play’s contents. A few of them: an elaborate conspiracy theory; a slideshow of agitprop memes; an interactive game show; questionable Wikipedia entries; musical numbers; historical re-enactments using dolls.

Much like a YouTube video offering to expose the secrets of the Illuminati, even when Putin On Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show) is not convincing as conspiracy, it’s aesthetically loaded and consistently funny.

The cast of 'Putin on Ice (that isn't the title of this show).' Photo courtesy of Single Carrot Theatre.
The cast of ‘Putin on Ice (that isn’t the title of this show).’ Photo courtesy of Single Carrot Theatre.

Like a tumbling internet k-hole, Pierson’s script brims with ecstatic insights that are hard to remember upon later reflection. “The truth cannot be understood by content, only form,” the Putins say, in the midst of a rapid slideshow of doctored Renaissance art, adding: “Putin is content, and also form,” and here I swear here I heard another narrator audibly sigh, as if internally scoffing at themselves for making such an abstract and pedantic statement.

If the play obfuscates its motivation for revealing to you all these things about Putin, it is direct, totalitarian even, about dictating how you think and feel about them. “Here, your heart breaks,” we are instructed during an excerpt from Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

Later, the Putins admit they lied about something.“We weren’t wrong, we were lying just now… but you can believe us,” they say.

We’re told what the playwright is thinking too, reminded constantly that theater is a fallible experience, “text is useless,” and that we “are welcome to leave at any time.”

The multitude of narrators allows for them to undercut the veracity of each other’s claims about these Putin anecdotes, about what the show is trying to say, about whether this wacky show is even achieving its highfalutin mission. Pierson is adept at guessing what we as the audience are thinking, disrupting our thoughts before we can draw any discrete conclusions, merging her thought spirals with our own.

Putin On Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show) soon drips into personal asides straight from the playwright: things said to her therapist, a recollection of TV shows her father didn’t like her to watch. These moments of honesty puncture the heady formal elements, grounding you, reminding you that the whole show – all of art really – is just a cipher for the collected observations of the author. In this case, we’ve labeled that cipher “Putin.”

Again, where is this monastic room where the secrets of Putin are revealed?

“Before Putin was nothing, now it’s everything,” they remark, situating us directly in the playwright’s head.

How did we get here? The answer, inevitably: Putin brought us.

Running time: 75 minutes

Putin On Ice (that isn’t the real title of this show) plays through October 7th at Single Carrot Theatre – 2600 N. Howard Street in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 443-844-9253 or purchase them online here.

Ensemble: Molly Cohen, Paul Diem, Alix Fenhagen, Sophie Hinderberger, Tania Karpekina, Ben Kleymeyer, Matthew Shea, Meghan Stanton, Mohammad R. Suaidi, Kaya Vision

Production Team
Playwright…………………… Lola B. Pierson
Director………………………………Yury Urnov
Stage Manager…………………Tessara Farley
Asst. Stage Manager………….Gillian Lelchuk

Design Team
Lighting Design …………… Eric Nightengale
Sound Design ……………………. Steven Krigel
Asst. Sound Design ………… Lauren Jackson
Costume Design ………………….. Molly Cohen
Props Design ………………………. Alisa Glenn
Set Design ………………………… Yury Urnov
Video Design …………………. Nitsan Scharf
Movement Director …………………. Jarod Hanson
Music Director …………………. Stephen Nunns

1 COMMENT

  1. My two friends and I are theatergoers. We meet about once a month to see a play but this was our first experience at the Single Carrot. Many of the plays we have seen in the last year have been disappointing. Some fail to meet our expectations, due to the subject matter and/or acting and some fail on all accounts. Some are so bad, we have walked out. We may not always agree on whether we like a play or do we come to the same conclusions regarding character and plot analysis. With this being said, Putin on Ice delivered all that we desired and then some. We unanimously gave the play three thumbs up; it brought us so much pleasure that we are still discussing it. Lola Pierson must be a genius and is deserving of a Tony.

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