Keirin Brown (L,) Olya Petrakova (standing), Bryan Brown and Ilana Turner. All photos by Taso Papadakis.

After literally feeling your way to a seat in the pitch dark theater, you hear actors moving about on stage, feeling that anytime now the lights should shine. The performers sound like they’re shoveling dirt, but you really don’t know, as you can’t even see your hand one inch in front of your eyes. Strangers next to you are antsy. “Lights please!” Despite a few audience complaints, whoever is on stage goes about their dirty business, echoing machines from the dawn of the industrial era or maybe the monster hiding in your closet, whose sole purpose is to get you.

“TURN THE LIGHTS ON!” spectators are now shouting. Sharing my peers’ mounting anxiety, I also jubilate in witnessing the house stand up for its rights, holding cell phones over their heads like torches. The American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory has struck again!


These 10 minutes of revolutionary theater was ARTEL’s way of kissing 2006 goodbye. Last December, the provocative ensemble folded 2007 with a two-night presentation of their work-in-progress: Variation #50 (the memorable adventures during the legendary times of Mikhail Afanesievich Bulgakov) at Highways Performance Space.

Click here for the full review.