by Lynn on May 11, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs until May 26. Written by Diane Flacks in collaboration with Luba Goy and Andrey Tarasiuk. Directed by Andrey Tarasiuk. Music accompaniment by Victor Mishalow. Set by Douglas Paraschuk. Costume by Tamara Marie Kucheran. Lighting by Raha Javanfar and Robert Thomson. Starring Luba Goy.

Produced by Pleiades Theatre.

Luba Goy is beloved. This diminutive woman with her endless variety of facial expressions, sounds and sense of comedy, has been entertaining people as a founding member of The Royal Canadian Air Farce, for more than 35 years.

Luba, Simply Luba reveals Ms Goy’s and her family’s struggles to come to Canada and the trials and tribulations after they arrived, until Luba’s success. She was born in Ukraine. Her father was a comedic personality in his own right until he was in a terrible mining accident which changed his and their lives forever. From then on he was mentally fragile and unable to work. Her family immigrated to Canada for a better life. They settled in Ottawa. Luba’s mother supported the family by working at the Lord Elgin as a baker. Her father spent a lot of time at a mental facility in Brockville. There was no one to take care of Luba while her mother worked so she was taken to a Catholic orphanage to be looked after.

Luba grew up with dreams of becoming a dancer. That fortunately gave way to becoming an actress. She went to the National Theatre School. She had a stint at the Stratford Festival and eventually found her way into comedy, improvisation and ultimately as a founding member of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

It’s a rich, full life. Fellow Ukrainian Andrey Tarasiuk urged Ms Goy to do a one woman show of her life. Diane Flacks, a huge comedic talent in her own right, was engaged to write the script with help from Ms Goy and Andrey Tarasiuk, who also directs. With all this wonderful talent involved, why is this show such a disappointment, and forgive me, so unfunny?

Many of Ms Goy’s remembrances, which she must have thought were hilarious, are so slight as not to register a titter. Her father entertaining her school friends might be funny in her memory, but they don’t resonate enough in retelling. The story flits back and forth in time, which is fine, but sometimes there are references to things that will be explained in a later scene. I think it’s a miscalculation to assume the audience knows many of the details of Ms Goy’s life. The biggest frustration is that sometimes stories are chopped up and other chopped up stories are interspersed in the telling.

For example the story of her father’s death and funeral is chopped up and interspersed with the story of Ms Goy being invited to a state dinner at Rideau Hall to meet President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine—the hero of the revolution. She would come to a dramatic point in one story and would go to the other story, until that reached a dramatic point and she would go back. The result is that neither story is served and the drama of both is lost. However the description of the smell of the President’s shirt is divine.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem of Luba, Simply Luba, is Luba herself. Her delivery is often tentative. On the opening night she appeared to forget her lines twice. That is unsettling. She seems to pause after every line perhaps waiting for a laugh that doesn’t come. The result is that the pacing is ponderous and very slow.

Scenes are noted with a musical flourish by Victor Mishalow, playing a Bandura, a traditional Ukrainian stringed instrument like a huge lute. He also sings in a booming voice. To accompany each musical stroke director Andrey Tarasiuk has different projections appear on the large panels at the back.

The intentions are honourable. I just wish the results weren’t so disappointing.

Luba, Simply Luba plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs until May 26.


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