A beloved Ukrainian-Jewish play is coming to the Gordon Center for one of its first performances outside of Ukraine. Performed by the Columbia-based Lucky Bunch Theater group, “The Train ‘Odessa-Mama’” tells the story of a Ukrainian woman and a Jewish man who meet on a train and fall in love.
The play proved very popular during its initial run in Kyiv, as it was performed many times over the course of seven years. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is what led Lucky Bunch Theater to bring the play to the U.S.
“The war started, and we decided that “The Train ‘Odessa-Mama’” will be traveling here, to America,” said Maxim Gorokhov of Lucky Bunch Theater. A network administrator by day, Gorokhov and his wife, Angela Ruzhansky, started the theater troupe in 2018 because they missed Ukrainian theater. The 11 members of Lucky Bunch Theater have performed in similar Ukrainian plays throughout Maryland and the Greater Washington area.
“The Train ‘Odessa-Mama’” marks the first time that the Gordon Center will be hosting a Lucky Bunch production. Gorokhov noted that the play’s themes of Ukrainian Judaism and finding love across social and cultural divides are especially relevant to the performing arts center’s mission of promoting Jewish theater.
“Odessa is a melting pot of different nations and cultures. We’re talking about Jewish, Russian, Greek, French, Italian people … the authors [of “The Train ‘Odessa-Mama’”] came up with the idea of the play because of the similarities between Ukrainian and Jewish culture,” he explained.
Ruzhansky said that the play, which is presented in Ukrainian with English subtitles, has a wry sense of humor that is characteristic of Ukrainian comedy.
“It’s skeptical, it’s sarcastic, it’s smart,” she said. “That’s one of the most popular types of humor in Eastern Europe.”
But making people laugh is not the theater company’s only goal in putting on this production — they also hope to raise money to support the war effort in Ukraine. And they also aim to entertain people with an uplifting, Jewish-themed story during uncertain times for the Jewish people.
“Even now, in these difficult times that Ukraine and Israel are going through, there is a token of love that you can find that will help you get through these difficult times to do what is necessary to be victorious, to overcome all obstacles,” Ruzhansky said.
The performance will be held at the Gordon Center on Sunday, Jan. 7, at 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.