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    Dealing with disaster

    "Compensation," a Russian play based on the word-for-word recollections of Chernobyl survivors, airs feelings of sorrow and anger but may lack some of the impact of the original.


    "Compensation" is a play taken from the real statements of Chernobyl survivors after the nuclear disaster that killed thousands in Ukraine. In 1988, psychologist Adolph Kharash interviewed "Liquidators" from the city of Pripiat, near Chernobyl, who had helped with the cleanup after the accident, collecting the memories that are the basis of this play from Russia.

    Full title: Compensation: A Liturgy of Fact.
    Written by: Sergei Kurginian.
    Directed by: Carolyn Kelson and Alexandra Lopez.
    Cast: Mary Kay Adams, Michael Aquino, Pia Caro, John Doerner, Margo Grib, Robert M. Jimenez, Laurie Muir, Candice Owens.
    Translated from Russian by: Carolyn Kelson with Alex and Helen Prokhorov.

    Related links: Official site
    Fringe Festival 2000

    • Fringe overview
    • Angry Little People
    • Charlie Victor Romeo
    • Compensation
    • Finally
    • The Monument
    • Thankless Jobs of the Apocalypse
    • Verbatim
    • Woman in the Animal Kingdom

    • Fringe 2001
    • Fringe 2001 listings
    Five women take the stage, dressed entirely in white scrubs, and give voice to the misery reflected in the survivors' descriptions — and the misery doesn't stop after the accident, it continues in what the women perceive as the indifference of the then-Soviet government and of their fellow citizens. One remembers being relocated to a new city and meeting her neighbor who noticed her ill health: "This one man says, 'Ah, Pripiat? In another two years you will be dead — and we will get your apartment!' "

    There's no denying the emotional impact of the horrifying stories from the Chernobyl disaster — and "Compensation" is staged imaginatively, with the white-clad women at several points mimicking their actions on the day of the invisible, almost unnoticed disaster and another time impersonating the flying neutrons in a nuclear reaction.

    Yet, their statements are chopped up into brief excerpts that sometimes aren't long enough and descriptive enough to give a deep sense of what the survivors' experience was like. And it seems likely that the play will have a much different impression on an American audience than it must have had on its original Russian audience. To an outsider, the strongest feeling from the play is one of grief and horror, and on this level it is effective but a bit weak in narrative structure. For Russians, however, the very expression of these emotions, in an accusatory tone toward the psychologist and by extension the state officials whose blunders contributed to thousands of horrible deaths, must have seemed brave and new.

    AUGUST 21, 2000

    Reader comments on Compensation:

  • Hello Margo - Good review!   from Fred Jackson, Feb 3, 2005

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