The Enduring Legend of Marinka Pinka and Tommy Atomic | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Enduring Legend of Marinka Pinka and Tommy Atomic 

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The Enduring Legend of Marinka Pinka and Tommy Atomic, SummerNITE, at the Theatre Building. Russian expatriate Marinka Pinka and American rock star Tommy Atomic, we're told, were lovers who decided at the height of the cold war to go to the Soviet Union, only to disappear mysteriously on the eve of their departure. Decades later their ghosts haunt the eastern European relocation camp whose inhabitants struggle to communicate in their sundry languages while they wait impatiently for clearance to emigrate to English-speaking countries, even though they know only a few stilted phrases of the language.

Romanian playwright Oana-Maria Cajal explores the human toll exacted by global tensions in intertwining episodes that are presented in a montage of expressionistic images, some incisive and some arcane. Director Joanna Settle deftly guides her cast through the potential clutter, highlighting Cajal's many cogent observations and universally emotive moments: a faithful swain follows his starstruck sweetheart to Los Angeles, knowing she'll need a friend there; a Florida sponsor is discovered to be a recruiter for foreign brothels; a stereotypical German aristocrat is shaken when a Rwandan refugee initiates a conversation that exposes his part in the whole intercultural mess--which forces us to question ours as well.

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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