Rebecca Rocheford Davies read a review on Russian Transport in the New York Times about five years ago, ordered the script, contacted director Joseph Uchitel and is now finally staging the play. Written by first-time playwright Erika Sheffer – and winning her an award – Russian Transport tells the story of a Russian Jewish immigrant couple with two grown American-born children, living in a Russian ghetto in New York City. Davies plays Diana, the family matriarch, and she sums up the backdrop like this:
“They live in a small house in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, and they’re running a car service out of the back of the house, so there’s [sic] drivers coming in and out of the house all the time and it’s half business, half home, and I’m trying to keep the home as homely and as comfortable as possible but we’re really struggling to make ends meet.”
Diana is tough, determined, and indifferent to ethical principles; traits she inherited from her criminal family background. When she asks her brother in Russia to come to New York so they can resume the “family business” it causes intense friction in Diana’s household and gradually reveals very unsavoury secrets.
“So in a way, it’s like Tolstoy meets The Sopranos,” says Davies. “It’s funny, and it’s dark and it’s disturbing and it’s definitely entertaining.”
Davies and her onstage brother and husband are required to speak with Russian/New York accents, and occasionally in Russian. That meant some intense sessions with a dialect coach which Davies described as a lot of fun. The accents and cultural divide between parents and children contribute a lot to the humour and depict a universal immigrant experience that makes the play relatable to an Australian audience.
“We’re all trying to figure out how we’re going to create this society and what it means to be American and what it means to be Australian, and that question is really pertinent right now,” says Davies.
Mar 9-31. Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton St, Darlinghurst. $46-$59+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.darlinghursttheatre.com
By Rita Bratovich