"Russian Transport," the latest offering from the New Group Theatre Company, takes a look at the trials and tribulations of one family of Russian Jewish immigrants pursuing the American dream in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review.
Like, oh, 99 percent of the city’s theater companies, the New Group presents plays about families — dysfunctional ones, comic ones, tragic ones. Erika Sheffer’s smart, engaging new drama, "Russian Transport," adds a Slavic twist: Here we have a troubled clan with sinister secrets that stretch back to Mother Russia.
Set in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, "Russian Transport" is a gritty but often humorous portrait of the immigrant nuclear family. Iron-willed Diana keeps track of the money from the car-service business run by her husband, the decent but weaker Misha. Offspring Alex and Mira, mostly raised in America, are thoroughly assimilated.
Enter Boris, Diana’s younger brother, who has relocated to America for unspecified work. If you suspect that Boris, who is charming, muscular and secretive, might not be completely legal, you’re dead right.
Boris is in the human trafficking business, getting girls to come over from Russia so they can be pressed into prostitution. Mira remains mostly unaware, while her brother Alex, who already deals drugs on the side, gets drawn into his uncle’s vile trade.
Sheffer is a keen storyteller, deftly balancing menace and laughter, and director Scott Elliott coaxes lived-in, visceral performances from his actors.
Sarah Steele and Raviv Ullman are particularly effective as the kids, Morgan Spector exudes powerful charisma and machismo and even Janeane Garofalo, while not a theatrical natural, has abundant warmth and intelligence.
There are stretches of dialogue in Russian that the production does not bother to translate for non-Slavs in the audience. But there’s no need: "Russian Transport" comes through loud and clear.