TUTA Theater

Hottest Ticket in Chicago - Chicago Tribune 6/22/07

Hottest Ticket in Chicago, Chicago Tribune - "You could see Milena Markovic’s “Tracks” – an emotionally resonant play about disenchanted Balkan youths – as just another dramatization of the amorality of post-adolescents, bored and choosing mischief. But this fine Serbian playwright has written something different.

06/15/07 - 07/08/07

Thu-Sat 8p; Sun 3p

Hottest Ticket in Chicago, Chicago Tribune - "You could see Milena Markovic’s “Tracks” – an emotionally resonant play about disenchanted Balkan youths – as just another dramatization of the amorality of post-adolescents, bored and choosing mischief. But this fine Serbian playwright has written something different. Her characters grew up during a civil war; this play is not so much about choices as consequences. Zeljko Djukich directs a savvy and intensely acted show for TUTA" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 6/22/07

"Here’s the conundrum: The razor-sharp young cast of TUTA theater’s production of "Tracks" acts the bloody stuffings out of this play by the contemporary Serbian dramatist Milena Markovic. No question about that. Yet the play itself -- a raw, unfocused tale of the damaged survivors of the civil wars that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart throughout the 1990s -- doesn’t seem to merit all the talent and energy that have been lavished on it. If you want to glorify this show, directed by Yugoslavia-bred Zeljko Djukich with a looseness that echoes the script, you might think of it as a fusion of "Spring Awakening" (the Tony-winning Broadway musical about adolescents in chaos) and "Huddersfield" (writer Ugljesa Sajtinac’s powerhouse drama on the same theme as "Tracks," presented by TUTA in 2006). The mix of cruelty, self-destruction, confusion, desperation and personal uprootedness in Markovic’s play echoes that in "Huddersfield," as it creates quick takes of the lives of a group of lost souls. Most of them are loutish high school kids, several of whom eventually join the Serbian militias and proceed to rape, pillage and watch their pals die, all the while mastering some of the finer points of low-level black marketeering and its attendant brutality. Moving among these guys is an equally lost, sexually adventurous girl -- a role played with star quality by blond, leggy Alice Wedoff (who also morphs into several other women, including a fetching teacher and an abused Bosnian Muslim captive, and who someone should instantly cast in a production of "Born Yesterday"). The problem here is the wobbly, fragmented track of the storytelling. It is almost impossible to follow the sequence of events here, and difficult to tell whether the war triggered the brutality, or the brutes were already in the wings, with the war giving them an outlet for their anti-social ways. What redeems the whole production (in an English translation by Dubravka Knezevic) is the sense of youth at bay in an environment of corruption and amorality. And this emerges in its most surprising form from time to time as all the tension bursts, and the actors (many of them excellent instrumentalists) seem to spontaneously come together in a kind of ad hoc band that plays old rock ’n’ roll (everything from Nancy Sinatra’s "These Boots Were Made for Walking" to R.E.M.’s "Losing My Religion"). Wayne Parham and Shaun Whitley have supplied first-rate musical direction. Choreographer Elizabeth Lenz makes the most of every brief opportunity. Martin Andrew’s set -- a massing of gray boulders -- captures the dreariness if not the true landscape of the place. As for any hope of an "ideal world," it lives in the imagination of the "Idiot" (touchingly played by Adam Kalesperis), the mentally slow young artist who paints his miniature dream house. Trey Maclin, Andy Hager, Keith D. Gallagher, David Merritt and Whitley form the rest of the fine ensemble. One thing "Tracks" inadvertently reminds you of is that these adolescents are now the young adults who have inherited a broken country and who will probably spend the next decade or more attempting to get Serbia back on track in Europe. " - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times 6/22/07"

"You could see Milena Markovic's "Tracks" -- a disturbing and emotionally resonant play about disenfranchised and disenchanted Balkan youth -- as just another dramatization of the amorality and potential cruelty of post-adolescents. Many such works have fed the nightmares of parents: Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange;" Larry Clark's "Kids;" Kenny Lonergan's "This is our Youth;" and Eric Bogosian's "SubUrbia." Change era and setting, and just fill in the callous blanks. But whereas most such works are about bored kids making, on some level, choices to get into mischief, this fine Serbian playwright is writing about a very different context. Her crew grew up during the civil wars that scorched the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when the schoolroom and the frontline had a depressing kinship and proximity. It's not so much a play about choices but consequences. And given the feminist sensibility that informs a drama with six aggressive young men and one bagatelle of a young woman, it's mostly a play about boys' choices and their consequences for a lively girl. Strangely, "Tracks" also is a musical, albeit one set in an atonal landscape. From time to time, the suddenly unified youths all form (and just as quickly disband) a kind of impromptu live band, performing (with total seriousness) mostly American standards. In Zeljko Djukich's savvy and intensely acted production for his TUTA Theatre Chicago, these alienating segments infuse the show with both charm and sadness. As in the current movie "Once," the music indicates an intense longing for togetherness that proves impractical. "Tracks" is a TUTA remount of a 2006 production (which I didn't see), but it's not to be missed by those who missed it the first time around and who crave theater with young guts, but shaped by a director with craft. The piece has certain resemblances with "Huddersfield," another play about Eastern European kids produced by TUTA, which I greatly admired. "Tracks" is a more episodic piece (it's really a collection of experiential vignettes), but it's also the more sophisticated of the two works. And Djukich's direction here is quite masterful -- even though he chooses to work in a simple and non-realistic environment, he still manages to continually confound spatial and tonal expectations. You're surely kept on your toes for 90 minutes. Djukich has a mostly just-out-of-college cast that reminds me of the earlier days at the Next Theater Lab and beyond. The two standouts are a disarmingly charming young newcomer called Keith D. Gallagher, who seethes, smiles and sings with equal felicity, and the superb Alice Wedoff, who runs herself ragged fighting off young fools she still seems to need" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 6/19/07

"TUTA revives its rocking Balkan War drama. When his hair turned the steel gray color it is now, Zeljko Djukich was 28. It happened in less than a week’s time. He doesn’t like recounting the trauma of how it happened, but not, as one might expect, because it’s too painful to recall. In fact, no one in the harrowing story even got hurt in the end. But compared to the greater horrors experienced by his loved ones and countrymen during the most recent Balkan wars, the incident isn’t even a drop in the bucket. To mention it at all would be distasteful, so he keeps his mouth shut about it. These days the Bosnia native, now in his 40s, keeps his hair in a mod David Byrne cut, with buzzed sides and a floppy, layered top. “The Talking Heads are responsible for us being together,” his Belgrade-born wife, Natasha, says. The two met in college where both were studying theater (he directs, she designs costumes; they immigrated to the States 17 years ago). American rock figures heavily in the play the Djukichs’ company, TUTA, is remounting this week at the Chopin. Tracks, by Serbian playwright Milena Markovic, made its American premiere last fall at the Viaduct. It cocked plenty of heads with its nonlinear structure and style—it’s simply a loose series of scenes depicting (very ugly) young urban life in a post–Balkan War city—but it also set pulses racing with its angsty use of Dick Clark–era rock & roll. (The impressive cast of cool, brutal reprobates doubled as a live band.) Zeljko and Natasha won’t make apologies for the bleak style or amoral center of Tracks. Even though the performances make it compulsively watchable, Markovic’s play is a postwar story with no heroes, no hope for the future or even a cohesive journey to follow. But they’re quick to point out that American expectations for what constitutes storytelling can flummox one’s theatergoing experience" - Chris Piatt, TimeOut Chicago 6/14/07

Milena Markovic

Zeljko Djukic

Alice Wedoff, Adam Kalesperis, Keith D. Gallagher, Andy Hager, David Merritt, Trey Maclin and Shaun Whitley

Dramaturg Dubravka Knezevic, Set Martin Andrew, Costumes Natasha Djukic, Lights Keith Parham, Props Julie Eberhardt, Music Direction Wayne Parham & Shaun Whitley, Sound Carter Robins, Choreographer Elizabeth Linz, Stage Fights Dana Wall, Stage Manager Helen Lattyak, Asst Stage Manager Mollie Dinstiber, Graphics Dean A. Johnston, Marketing Jacqueline Stone and Operations Cindy Savage.

Tags: Theater, Rest Of The World, 2007