Edmonton’s Punctuate! Theatre is currently taking up residence in The Theatre Centre to present First Métis Man of Odesa, written and performed by Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova. Directed by Lianna Makuch, First Métis Man of Odesa tells the true story of its creators and performers; from the beginning of their relationship, to the plague and war that threatened to keep them apart, it’s a harrowing tale sure to tug at your heartstrings.
What struck me the most about this production was its honesty; from the opening line of “We don’t want your donations!” To Matt plotting against his overbearing mother-in-law, to Mariya admitting that she didn’t want to write this play, every moment is endowed with the gravity of the reality of the situation. There was even a moment, when talking about her struggles after coming to Canada, where I saw tears in Mariya’s eyes and my heart broke for her. This gravity doesn’t impede the audience from laughing right along with the characters and taking joy in the delightful parts of their lives, on the contrary, it makes those happy moments all the happier.
The set for this production, designed by Daniela Masellis, is visually stunning. Paired with the projections designed by Amelia Scott, we are able to travel through space and time with Matt and Masha. Without giving away anything, the surprises of the set were also phenomenal and added to that sense of reality coming down on the couple.
Matthew and Mariya are both phenomenal storytellers and it was a joy to witness them tell us about their lives. Matt’s physical comedy is hysterical and perfectly timed. Mariya’s grace and elegance makes her performance a dazzling one. You can feel the trust they have in one another as they move through the piece, and that strength not only carries the piece but it sounds like their daily lives as well. They’re a brilliant team, you could feel that they had put a great deal of themselves and their hearts into this production.
I had thought at first that the title, First Métis Man of Odesa, was in reference to Matt travelling to Ukraine when he meets Mariya. It brought tears to my eyes that it is actually in reference to their son, the beautiful gift they’ve received after so many trials. First Métis Man of Odesa is more than a love letter to their son, it’s an important reminder that love and light always find a way, even in our darkest times. Make sure you see this incredible show before it heads back out west! For more information and tickets, visit: https://theatrecentre.org/event/first-metis-man-of-odesa/