The director for The First Metis Man of Odesa, a production which kicks off its world premiere in Kamloops next week, described the play as a love story for an unpredictable world.
Lianna Makuch said the production is based on the lives of the playwrights Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova, who also perform the two lead roles.
The First Metis Man of Odesa follows the story of Matthew, a Metis man from Alberta, and Masha, a woman from Odesa, Ukraine, who fall in love and carry their relationship through a global pandemic and the outbreak of war.
“They spark up an interest in one another, which then develops into something more, and leads them through a little bit of an international romance until COVID shuts that down. Shortly after that, Masha discovers that she is expecting,” Makuch said.
“The story takes us through their relationship, overcoming these obstacles, and then also takes us through the impact of not only COVID but the Russian invasion of Ukraine on their lives and their relationship.”
Makuch said she is intertwined in MacKenzie and Khomutova’s story, as the real-life married couple met for the first time when working with Makuch in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2018.
“I have been a part of their story from the very beginning. Some might say that I am the reason they are together, and so I was basically obligated to direct their play,” the director said.
She said it’s been a wonderful process to work with MacKenzie and Khomutova on The First Metis Man of Odesa.
“I'm spending this much time with them, working through what is essentially their lives. You can really see why they make such a good match together, and how they have been able to persevere and overcome these obstacles,” Makuch said.
“As someone who's very close to them on a personal level as well, I think that's a gift to the story and to the production itself.”
She said the most challenging part of putting the production together has been “the urgency and speed” necessary to bring this play to audiences.
“Because of the subject matter, everything has had to be very accelerated. It's only been just over a year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” Makuch said.
“That's when Matt and Mariya knew that they had to expand on a story that they were already working on, and it needed to be told, and it needed to be now. We all just put the team together, strapped in, and hit the ground running with it.”
Western Canada Theatre will be presenting The First Metis Man of Odesa at the Pavilion Theatre in downtown Kamloops from March 16 to March 25.
After that, the play will be going on tour, with stops planned in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Makuch said she hopes audiences will be left with a feeling of hope.
“I hope that people are inspired by this love, and see that not even those most evil forces can take away the most pure form of love, or destroy true love,” Makuch said.
“I think that that gives us a lot of strength and a lot to fight for.”
Tickets to the Kamloops performances for The First Metis Man of Odesa can be purchased through WCT's website.