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Theatre Review (LA): Dual Citizens by Anna Skubik and Anthony Nikolchev at the Odyssey Theatre

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If you like your theatre with a European feel then Dual Citizens, currently playing at the Odyssey Theatre, is for you. Ron Sossi, the Artistic Director of the Odyssey, is known for his admiration for and devotion to European theatre, so it is no wonder that he embraced Dual Citizens.

Dual Citizens is actually two plays, Broken Nails: A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue, and Look What I Don’t Understand.

Broken Nails is performed first, by a remarkable actress and puppeteer, Anna Skubik. Ms. Skubik is from Poland and has performed this play around the world and in multiple languages: Greek, Spanish, Polish, and English. She was inspired by a strange saga involving Marlene Dietrich’s belongings after she died. Twenty-five tons of belongings arrived in Berlin from the Paris apartment where the reclusive star had lived for thirteen years. The trunks contained rugs, toilet paper, half-smoked cigarettes, feathers, and an address book. It also contained a poem Dietrich had learned from her mother about loving as long as possible because death is inevitable.

The plot of Broken Nails is simple. Anna and Marlene are attached at the hip (Marlene is a life-sized puppet). Anna seems to be Marlene's personal servant, but their relationship is co-dependant and unhealthy. Ms. Skudik is remarkable in the way she manipulates the puppet until you almost believe it is alive. Brilliant!

Look What I Don’t Understand is a retelling using physical theatre conventions of the escape of the actor’s (Anthony Nikolchev’s) grandparents from Bulgaria. Nikolchev acts all the parts, changing among them at a rapid pace. I imagine it is the actor’s way of trying to understand what happened to his grandparents so he can understand his own life in the present.

One last note: Ms. Skubik and Mr. Nikolchev live together. Can you imagine their conversations at the breakfast table? Dual Citizens plays at the Odyssey Theatre until March 28th. Catch it if you can.

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