It Ain't No Fairy Tale
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 17, 2007
it ain't no fairy tale, Lusia Strus's one-woman show at FringeNYC, is a love story. Two love stories, actually: one about the enduring marriage of her parents, Nicholas and Eugenia; the other about her own marriage to Mike, a marriage that she says she wasn't expecting or looking for, but that she has clearly learned to take very seriously since.
The tale of Strus's parents is charming and inspiring. They are Ukrainians who emigrated to America after World War II, three years apart—they married after a whirlwind courtship during one of her father's rare trips back to his home country, and then it took those years for him to earn enough to bring her to the US to join him. By that time, they had the first of their three daughters. (Lusia is the youngest.)
The details that Strus shares about her parents' remarkable relationship are captivating, and she tells them with enormous love; they form the most moving section of the show. They also give us food for thought: when she expresses, for example, her mother's joy at discovering sliced bread in her new home of Chicago ("Not only do I not have to wait on line for eight hours, but it's already cut!"), we're reminded of just how much we take for granted in "civilized" New York City in 2007.
Civilization, by the way, is one of Strus's pet themes. She notes that many of the foundations of so-called civilization aren't the least bit civilized, from the fairy tales we grow up on to the vows we make in front of our friends, families, and God at a wedding ceremony. (Strus's deconstruction of the traditional wedding rite is very funny and also very incisive.)
As for her own love story, well, I don't want to give much away. Suffice to say that the show's title gives more than a broad hint about Strus's life: she reveals much here, not only about her romance with Mike, but also about her addictions and her attitudes toward family and personal growth. The second half of it ain't no fairy tale, which focuses on Strus's experiences, is less charming and less universal than the earlier portion about her parents. And when she admits, about an hour into the show, that she hasn't figured out how to end it...well, she's right.
The writing is sharp throughout, though, and Strus's performance is compelling even when it feels overly mannered. She's attired in a smart black pantsuit with leopard-spotted high heels; she cuts a striking figure and, for almost all of the show, her expressive face is all that we're really watching because Strus moves very little and does most of her acting above the shoulders. It's a singular style, but I wonder if a director (none is credited) could help her find ways to make the piece a bit more active.
This is an engaging solo work by a savvy and talented performer. If ultimately few earth-shattering or life-altering ideas are brought out, there's nonetheless plenty of interesting meat to chew on in this unusual and interesting tale of life and love.