Performing Arts: Theater
October 10, 2014
There’s a Russian phrase – “Another person’s soul is but murk and shadows.” That sentence perfectly encapsulates the essence of I Am Me, directed and performed by Nicole Kontolefa. This 50 minute walking monologue – the performance I saw started on the steps of the Natural History Museum and wound its way into Central Park and the Shakespeare Garden – is an exploration of how we relate to one another. Can we actually ever know each other? According to the character Ms. Kontolefa’s creates ‘I is for me and no one else.’

The show, written by Russian playwright Alexandra Chichkanova, is not particularly well known. This performance marks the first time that it has been done outside of her native country. That alone gives the performance some extra gravitas. What makes this production even more striking, however, is that Ms. Chichkanova hanged herself in 2012, just 11 days before her 30th birthday. In essence, this play, along with her other works, are the closest we can ever come to knowing her. It’s weighty and heady stuff, certainly a contrast to the relaxing environment and the energy and enthusiasm of Ms. Kontolefa.

And that contrast makes the show a winner. Ms. Kontolefa’s energy and focus never wavers during the performance. The sheer force of her performance pulls the audience along with her. She is at turns confident, insecure, defiant, charming, and lost. It’s a carefully realized performance and every action taken and word spoken feel both spontaneous and inevitable.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston

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