Kanthalina Andreus is part of the Connecticut Critics Circle mentorship program for college students. She is a student at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.
Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, a streaming co-production of TheaterWorks in Hartford, TheaterSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and in association with The Civilians, premiered on October 20 at 7:30 p.m. Unusual times call for unusual measures and filming entire productions while socially distanced is one many people are attempting.
Written by Sarah Gancher, Russian Troll Farm is identified as a workplace comedy, but only one of those names fit. While it was going for funny office antics (think The Office and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) the play was often just very eerie. Maybe it was the dark office set up.
But, it may be that the wound of the 2016 election is still just a bit too raw as we find ourselves in a very similar situation again.
This play follows a group of overworked internet trolls- Egor (Haskell King), Steve (Ian Lassiter), Masha (Danielle Slavick), and Nikolai (Greg Keller) at their workplace in Russia as they work to sway the results of the 2016 US election under the direction of their supervisor Ljuba (Mia Katigbak).
The most interesting character in the play is Ljuba (Mia Katigbak), the complete Russian stereotype: a cold, strict, ex-KGB, overbearing supervisor who lightly praises her employees with the promise of liquor and threatens them frequently. Despite that, we get the most information about her in a rushed, fainting spell induced monologue instead of experiencing it and how it affects her on the screen. She goes from high alert commander to snappy, but joke cracking boss somehow.
The character of Steve (Ian Lassiter), the internet troll who is also a real world troll, was written and played so accurately it will bring you quite a lot of discomfort. He partly represents the incels of the world – a group of young men on the internet who delight in hostility and violence against women; especially those who reject them – and adds a scary bit of realism to a play that is simultaneously steeped in truth and the make believe. At times, the play goes overboard with the memes and graphic editing but that doesn’t completely work against it in Steve’s case.
It did a good job providing a pretty seamless viewing experience, though. Much of the time it looks as if all the characters are sharing the same background as they interact with each other. They easily looked like they were in the same space thanks to co-directors Elizabeth Williamson and Jared Mezocchi. There was no lagging and only a few malfunctions/glitches.
The show ends on a victorious (for the trolls) and escalated note that confuses the urgency of the situation and is still devoid of comedy. See for yourself. It is streaming until October 24 and on demand October 25 – November 15. Get your tickets at https://twhartford.org/