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  Russian Transport at Steppenwolf Theatre

Russian Transport

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

A rowdy Russian family in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn is on a daily hustle to achieve the American Dream. When Uncle Boris arrives from the old country, his mysterious business ventures force the family to decide just how far they are willing to go to come out on top. A funny, passionate family drama that slyly transforms into a heart-pounding thriller, Russian Transport is a fascinating look at the contemporary American immigrant experience.

Thru - May 11, 2014

Price: $20-$78

Stage: Upstairs Theatre

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins; one intermission

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  Russian Transport Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Under the pitch-perfect direction of Yasen Peyankov, the actors are electrifying. (They also do a superb job with their accents and bits of Russian dialogue, although overall audibility is spotty.)"
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Recommended

"...The infection Sheffer shows us originated with the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and the lawless early years of the Russian Federation. Her case study is a Russian Jewish family of four, living in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. No clear time line is given, but judging by comments dropped here and there in the course of the play, parents Misha and Diana must've emigrated in the mid-1990s, when Yeltsin was president, the oligarchs were snatching up natural resources, gangsters had free rein, and everybody else did what they had to do just to hang on."
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Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Spending more than two hours contemplating the full spectrum of a topic we are accustomed to confronting only briefly on, say, Law and Order: SVU is not an attractive proposition for audiences, but director Yasen Peyankov has instructed Alan Wilder and Mariann Mayberry to lend Misha and Diana's marital bickering an unexaggerated affection and Tim Hopper to likewise resist action-movie clichés in his portrayal of Boris, reflecting the placid mask that ultimately conceals dark deeds at sufficient distance. Lingering in our memories, however, are Melanie Neilan, playing all the naive little sisters menaced by seductive predators, and Aaron Himelstein, representing all the loyal elder brothers who must choose between protecting them or embracing their abuse."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...Yasen Peyankov's production is mostly well-acted, at least; Mayberry and Wilder fully inhabit their characters' coarseness, and Himelstein nicely conveys Alex's inner turmoil upon realizing what he's gotten involved in. But Hopper's Boris, while plenty menacing, crucially misses the magnetism that would draw his niece and nephew into his trust."
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Highly Recommended

"...Director Yasen Peyankov paces the play with an impeccable sense of flow and rest, urgency and tension. The reunion of sister and brother at the family's welcoming dinner is expansive in its cheer, disturbing in its edge. Boris' transformation from mellow uncle to terrifying criminal progresses by deftly measured steps."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...A morality tale without the morality, Russian Transport (its double pun referring to both the father’s business and the uncle’s smuggling) is rooted in bedrock dilemmas. These characters seismically register every response to the threats they face on a continuum from complacency to whiteout panic. Sheffer’s potboiler is too honest to sell us a happy ending. So it offers none. Which for many will seem either an easy cop-out or a gutless compromise. But there’s no doubt that Russian Transport presents its problem the way a bomb exposes its components."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Recommended

"...Scenes that should be full of the edge-of-your-seat tension just seem to roam in and out of focus from time to time. Still it never gets boring; the play remains interesting, just not fully engaging until the end of Act 2 when the stakes are finally raised really high. The play has a good message about how easy it is for immigrant communities to fall back into old habits, about the impatience many of them face trying to realize the “American Dream” in an instant gratification culture, and about making difficult choices. It’s got a lot of important things to say, but unfortunately this production just doesn’t seem like it conveys them as sharply as it could have."
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Justin LeClaire

Groupon - Recommended

"...The script only starts to sag in the second act, when arguments seem to drag on and character choices confound, implying that Sheffer couldn't figure out how to wrap things up. At the last minute, though, the production saves face with a touching, if ambiguous, ending, where the younger generation tries to make a noble stand. We can only imagine what happens to them after the lights go dark, but at least we know they tried to do the right thing at least once."
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Will Landon

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Russian Transport is a refreshingly deep drama that asks the question: Are personal ethics a luxury of prosperity or are they the guiding light to personal integrity? Russian Transport is a "must see " play that puts a valid twist on the conflicts facing immigrants from totalitarian countries."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...Russian Transport by Erika Sheffer is a play with an identity crisis which the solid production currently on view in its Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf cannot overcome. There is a lot to appreciate in both the writing and production, but ultimately the play does not delve deeply enough into the characters and their pursuit of the “American dream” to create a compelling portrait of the world it explores. The uneven tone seems more suited to a television series pilot than a fully-realized drama. This is not all bad. The dialogue contains some clever and provocative exchanges and the issues raised by the skeletal plot before it runs off the rails near the end are interesting enough to generate some exciting post-show discussion over a few beers, or vodka shots if one prefers."

Kerstin Broockmann

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Directed by Yasen Peyankov ( who I am sure understands a great deal more of this than we do), on a set (Joey Wade) that has multi-levels and dual purposes, we are in the home of this family which also included the office for the livery service. We do, from time to time, also find ourselves in a car with some wonderful  projections ( Stephan Mazurek ). The lighting ( Scott Zielinski) and sound (Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, who also did some original music) along with the costumes (Ana Kuzmanic) and the props (Desiree Arnold) and the dialect coach (Eva Breneman) all add to the very tight production that Steppenwolf puts on the stage."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...Erika Sheffer's drama offers audiences something new: she provides an uncluttered look at the experiences of an immigrant family struggling to do whatever's necessary to make the American Dream their own. That things go horribly wrong isn't the surprise; this is after all a play and something's got to happen. It's the fact that Sheffer offers no solutions. There's no happy ending and no message to treasure at the final curtain. The play, as Hamlet said, "is the thing," and audiences are free to take from it what they will. But one thing is certain: Sheffer provides theatre goers with a lot to think about afterwards."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Recommended

"..."Russian Transport" succeeds more as a thriller and domestic drama than as an exploration of social and moral issues implicit in the play's action. But enough of those issues are raised to provide fodder for spectators to chew over after the startling final moments of the play. Sheffer moves into the ranks of interesting new American dramatists with her first play and the performances stand up to the very high bar of Steppenwolf quality. The first act needs some enhancement but down the stretch "Russian Transport" gives the audience a gripping ride."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...The expressive Aaron Himelstein (Alex) draws us into his ongoing conflict. He and Neilan perfectly resemble a tight brother-sister bond. There is the merciless taunting. And then there is the overarching concern. Both come across in the teasing dialogue and intimate gestures. The charming Tim Hopper (Boris) and insensitive Alan Wilder (Misha) continually play with the audience's perception. The polished Hopper and hysterical Wilder reveal twisted personas. Peyankov takes Sheffer's script and wrings out every comedic and dramatic element."

Katy Walsh

  Russian Transport Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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