Train for Two, written and directed by Dan Petrenko, is an amateur production that can hold its ground.
Petrenko, a student at the University of Toronto, established JDY Theatre Productions in 2015 as an outlet for theatrical performances for the Russian-speaking Jewish community. As the second play set by JDY Theatre, this fifty-minute production serves up an excellent choice of classical music, which supplemented raw and emotional dialogue.
Based on a true story, Train for Two places the audience in the middle of a conversation between a Man (Max Baevsky) and a Woman (Annabelle Kolomeisky). The Woman recounts a family story about her late grandfather Misha’s (Yan Shvartsman) struggles living in Nazi-occupied territory, all while trying — and ultimately failing — to keep his integrity as a person.
Overall, I have to give kudos to Petrenko – this was the second time he directed Train for Two, and as an amateur script it’s not half bad. My only recommendation is for him to simplify the script a bit by cutting out some of the unnecessary bits. One line (that made me chuckle a bit) that can definitely head to the chopping block was “nothing hurts as much as a lion…except love.” Too much, man. Sometimes the less complicated lines are the ones that leave a powerful impact on the audience. For example, one outstanding, yet subtle, exchange of dialogue involved Nazi Soldier 2 (Nick Gordon) forcing his fellow Nazi Soldier 1 (Orel Shikher) to repeat a joke he heard about Hitler in front of Misha. When NS2 came back to Misha the next day, and Misha asked why NS1 was not there, NS2 replied with a crooked smile “Oh, well you see, he was shot…for telling a joke.”
Petrenko’s stage design, with the help of stage manager Raya Klichinsky, is definitely commendable for its simplicity, yet nevertheless elegant functionality. The stage was comprised of two sections: one for the Man’s and Woman’s train compartment, and the other for the Woman’s space as she tells the story. The compartment provided everything needed to actuate a conversation between two individuals, and the remainder of the space was made interchangeable with beds and tables, allowing other characters to use the space as well. The set, costumes and objects were highly detailed and certainly helped differentiate between the modern-day and Nazi-era scenes.
During the Q&A period, I asked Petrenko what he would change if he had an opportunity (as well as more experience and knowledge) to put this play on again in ten years. Although he limited his answer to include further improvements to set design and costumes (granted, I put him on the spot with that question), I’m confident that Petrenko will refine this production and shape into an even greater depiction of the horrors of life during the Nazi-era.
For more information on Train for Two, please visit http://www.jdytheatre.com/.