One Hundred Years Remembered – 1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs
by Marcina Zaccaria
One hundred years is a long time. When considering 1917-2017 through the eyes of a Ukrainian poet, there is something quite special. From 1917 -1920, the government in the Ukraine endured 12 transitions. Embittered, the citizens rebelled. Knowing one’s rights was everything.
When 1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs began in the lobby at La MaMa, it was enchanting. Poet Bob Holman gave a history lesson, leading on the Bolsheviks and each regime change. An actress, dressed in flowing white, appeared ghost-like. A musician in a black hood took a mallet to the strings of what looked like the back of a piano, the delicate sound was impressive. Then, the words of the Poet Serhiy Zhadan were spoken against a red wall.
Images like this are par for the course at La MaMa, however they were particularly impressive in Yara Arts Group’s stroll through the century, where tyranny gave way to anguish and destruction. Often in stark in black and white, this ensemble-based work relied on a fidelity to the words and the work of Tychyna. Appealing to scholars and music fans, the music of Julian Kytasty, playing the bandura, a Ukranian lute-harp, set the stage for dance, poetry, and song.
Harmonic singing warmed the heart, while dance and video provided extraordinary contrast. The poetry, spoken perfectly, conveys a bleak world. Heavy with gesture, the cast, dressed in black-draped fabrics and white peasant clothes, were lit by flashlights or from the large screen behind them. Standouts in the ensemble include Marina Celander and Sean Eden.
Poems we know were juxtaposed with the newest sounds from the Ukraine, provided by Post Independence Writer Serhiy Zhadan. The band, who often performs in Eastern Europe, delivered loud blasts, perhaps aimed towards the club scene in the East Village. Complete with drums, synthesizer, guitar, and brass (including trumpet and trombone), the sounds of a new century were sometimes jubilant. Bright colored red, yellow, and blue projections by Waldemart Klyuzko filled the space.
Bob Holman joined the band to recite more poetry. Addition of video was welcome at La MaMa, where the raw intensity of performance isn’t often this ethereal. In fact, there’s something cool and breezy about the poetic style of 1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs. The performance, as a whole, is a generous offering and easy to digest.
Though there could be more of a flow between the old world and the new in this one hour and twenty minute show, the gap was not too overt. Conceived and directed by Virlana Tkacz, the evening invariably convinced you to “Know Your Rights.” I’m glad I do.
1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs. Through June 25 at La MaMa E.T.C.’s Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 East Fourth Street, between Second Avenue and The Bowery). www.lamama.org
Cover Photo: Waldemart Klyuzko