(From left, actors Dean Valintino, Martin Ouellette and Michele Legere performing in Michael J. Krym’s Imaginary Lines at Sho Studios in Windsor, Ontario, on July 3, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
The cadre of playwrights able to capture a full range of emotions in their writings is certainly a rare group. After seeing the incredible Imaginary Lines, presented by Shō Studios and playing at Walkerville’s Sho art, spirit and performance, the group has a new member, Michael J. Krym.
Born in Italy of Polish parents, Krym remembers his parent’s recollections of the second world war and its impact on Poland. When he emigrated to the New World, he found great war stories but, as he told Eyes On Windsor, they were all from the perspective of the allied forces.
Determined to present a story not often heard, if at all, on this side of the Atlantic, he crafts a masterfully tragic drama that more than enlightens what life was like for regular folk in the small Polish town of Bialystok. In the play’s opening act, one of two, it is almost hard to sense it is even a war story.
At the time Russia’s Red Army has taken over Poland. One of its Russian soldiers Ilya Utkin, acted with incredible depth by Averey Meloche, half drunk, semi-stumbles into a Polish family’s home, and stops dead in his tracks when he sets eyes on the family’s daughter Krystyna, played with just the right level of guided emotions by Shayla Hudson.
Utkin is instantly struck by Krystyna’s beauty. She, on the other hand, also fast freezes for no other reason than Ilya’s uncanny resemblance to her departed young husband. It is a resemblance that proves to be a considerable advantage.
Times are not good, but they are not really bad. Krystyna has the support of her mother, Michele Legere, who manages to maintain the semblance of a proper household in her war-torn country. And then there is Krystyna’s father, linen factory worker Janusz. He takes the war with a more philosophical, grounded approach.
It is this kind of considerable believably of its characters which paves the way for a true modern tragedy that begins in earnest with its the Nazi’s turn to dominate Poland. Janusz is almost accepting of wars ebbs and flows, with such comments as “war is war,” a posture Dean Valentino handles admirably portraying Janusz as a true vanquished personality.
If there is a take away from the first act it centres on war being all about waiting. Krym brings it up a number of times if only to illustrate the desolation of living in a very unstable situation with limited certainty and no reason for even dreaming.
Despite the conditions, Krystyna and Ilya quickly become an item, with Ilya, a scholar who speaks Polish and German and other languages staying behind to play the role of her husband when the Nazi army rolls over the Russians and takes over Poland. His resemblance to Krystytna’s husband is enough to convince Nazi commander, Kommandant Richter – played with articulate German sounding English by Martin Ouellette – that he is indeed the dead husband. Richter actually settles on having his living quarters set up in Janusz’s home.
The pair become quick friends, if such is possible in a war, enjoying sharing their views. It all ends suddenly, when the Kommandant, after a relaxing breakfast, must deliver some bad news. Matter-of-factly, he tells the unsuspecting husband that his wife, Magdalena, has been shot for the crime of feeding bread to the Jews.
This is certainly not out of character for the motherly Magdalena. Her daughter’s best childhood friend Helena is Jewish, a role in which Maggie Marchenkowsky runs her character through a series of emotions and leaves the stage after one of its most poignant moments.
Magdalena’s death, to say the least, is a full-frontal body slam that turns the play’s tragic content to full boil. Things don’t go well as the play continues. Krym has crafted a remarkable story that draws in the audience and pulls on their emotions while portraying a series of events which prove war is not just damned by waiting.
Director Barry Brodie, in a post-performance interview, is as impressed with the script as the audience. One of his favourite aspects is Krym’s use of introductions, delivered by different cast members, to explain the passage of time and what is happening as the story progresses.
Imaginary Lines is Krym’s way of commemorating the 80th year since the start of World War II. It is a play with an abundance of subplots which he magically delivers with such ease despite their complexity. As such, it should be on everyone’s to see list.
Imaginary Lines will open on July 4 with seven more performances on July 5 and 6th and July 10-13th at Shō Studios, 628 Monmouth Rd., Walkerville.
For more information please visit the Imaginary Lines event listing on the Eyes On Windsor events calendar.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.