SINT MAARTEN (SOUTH REWARD) - What do you get when you take a mixed bag of professionals and toss them up with an equally mixed bag of weirdo Russian characters? Theatre – Albina Matuzko style.
As her cast of characters get ready to reveal themselves to audiences at the Community Center, Backstreet, Friday, and even before the curtain goes up, the Ukrainian-born director has already achieved the difficult task of keeping a cast of 17 players together for a production in the most difficult of St. Maarten times. Getting them all together, considering their individual limitations on time, personal commitments, family considerations etc, was one thing – but whipping them into shape for the upcoming Russian classic The Government Inspector was a totally different matter.
“I just have to look at the cast and weep,” says Albina (she cries a lot by the way, when making comedy).
“When I thought of how busy everyone was in their own private lives, with business, professional and family commitments, and the many hours they committed to our production, I thought it only fitting for this amazing ensemble to speak for themselves,” said Albina introducing each personally:
Entrepreneur, Raphael Dorra is a freewheeler with an artistic kick who remains in touch with nature and especially his island surroundings, both in a mystically and physically sense – “ I eat life”, he says, and about the character he plays? “Khlestakov is a great character to play on any stage and now especially on a St. Maarten stage to a St. Maarten/St.Martin audience. He is roguish and although this is not my persona, I am, in a sense very much in touch with his love of life” said Rapha.
Journalist and visual artist, Joe Dominique, is equally at home with words as he is with images. Anton Antonovich Skvoznik-Dhukhanovsky, the Governor, allows him to articulate some of the classic parlance of beloved Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Joe empathizes with the weight on his character’s shoulders as he and his scheming wife plot a way into a better life in St. Petersburg.
Legal Adviser, Marieke van Zadelhoff, is Anna Andreyevna, wife of Anton Antonovich Skvoznik-Dhukhanovsky, the Governor. Not wanting to miss out on the fun that her friends had in the last Albina Matuzko production, Marieke had her eyes set on the role of Anna from the start.“Anna has a number of different sides, and that makes it very interesting to play. Especially her hysterical coquettishness is super fun to play.”
Civil Law Notary, Meredith Boekhoudt, had very strong professional and family commitments to consider when opting to take part in another production by Albina Matuzko. Last time out she played one of the lead roles effortlessly. This time she chose a less demanding but equally important role, Maria Antonova – the love interest and betrothed of our lead character. “The poor thing is caught up with having to compete with her mother for the rogue Khalestakov’s attention - so will she make it to the altar at all? The audience will have to wait and see,” says Meredith.
Saskia Kliphuis, is an innovation coordinator at Milton Peters College and Sundial School who enjoys island life with her St. Maarten husband. Saskia has found her own creative outlets in painting and sculpting during her 13 years on the island and missed her involvement in theatre until she discovered her character in the form of the Judge, Olga Fyodorovna Tyapkin-Lyapkin. “I missed my little acting stints,” said Saskia. When not scheming and chasing after the Governor, Saskia looks further than her work on stage and is always ready to give a hand with the host of other things required to make the production work including, sewing costumes, raising funds and searching for props.
Physical and manual therapist Peter Prinsen is best known for applying his therapeutic skills at the St. Maarten Health Care Clinic on St. Maarten, but his transformation into the character Pjotr Bobchinsky for the production The Government Inspector, has been something of an unexpected therapy all in itself. He says of the role:” Bobchinsky is a kind -hearted but rather stupid town gossiper who is always together with Petra Dobchinsky. It’s a really fun role to play – made even more fun with a great partner like Petra”. And Policy Advisor, Francetta Schoe says the same about her partner in stage crime. “Petra Ivanova Dobchinsky is the character I play and she is impatient and mischievous. She thinks she can tell any story better than Pjotr – given the chance,” says Francetta. “It’s a great comic role to play and have fun with (growling belly and all), and I think that will be very clear from everyone on stage,” said the incredibly funny performer.
The youngest member of the cast is Kai Henriquez, who plays a faithful servant called Osip - an insolent and a mostly uncommunicative personality, who has just about had enough of his scheming master. Kai is a VWO-3 student at MPC so not a lot of time for rehearsals, more reason to make every minute count with the adults – then it’s back to his homework monitored by Mom, Eveline Henriquez-Dijkhoffz, who plays the Superintendent of Charities, Natalya Filipovna Zemlianika. It’s a role far removed from past appearances in Behind the Beyond, and vocal performances in musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables, but one that she does justice to between very tough business, family, community and personal commitments.
Cor Sikkes is an art teacher at CIA and St Dominic High School. He does a hilarious Donald Duck impersonation and is also the husband of play director, Albina Matuzko. Cor’s Character is the school inspector Luke Lukich Khlopov. “The fact is that Luka is too scared and terrified for every single person a little higher in rank then himself. Teachers at the schools can do what they like. For me he is a wonderful clownish character to play. Everyone will recognize a bit of “Luka” inside of him/herself!,” says Cor, who is also responsible for the design of the set, posters, tickets props etc.
Businesswoman Joyce Hanley says theatre has always been one of her passions having acted in several plays and written many more for her church and other organizations she has been involved with in the past. As the Postmaster/Mistress, her character really knows about “Breaking News” that she’s read by opening other people’s mail. Joyce says her role is welcome relief from all her losses from Hurricane Irma last year and she doesn’t regret for one moment embracing her role and meeting some fantastic cast colleagues who have helped her put Irma in her rear-view mirror.
Musician Karin Koster plays the role of a Housekeeper/maid and doubles up in the production as an Accordion player. Back in the Netherlands, Karin entertains seniors and children in hospital as a clown. “My double role in this production lets me do what I love to do – play live music – while I perform and interact with people whose lives were devastated by a hurricane and can still find time to enjoy the arts,” she says.
Beauty products company manager, Candace Sancho-Canterbury enjoys watching comedy shows and movies in her spare time, but never imagined for one minute she would find herself under the spotlight. “It’s my first time on stage and I am taking things very seriously. I am a scheming Sergeant who is busy “grafting higher than than her rank” We’ve all go to eat – right?
Standardized Patient Educator, Shirley Serbony, is a gifted actor with more years of experience than her age would suggest having worked with some of the St. Maarten’s best-known actors and directors of the past. In fact, Shirley’s professional calling requires her to employ those acting skills almost on a daily basis for trainee doctors, so turning her hand as the drunken boyhood friend of the Governor, Stepanida Illinishna, is a walk in the park. Shirley says taking on the role was really for a bit of a laugh – until she discovered all that was involved – No problem though – she’s still laughing while basking in the company of her new-found theatre colleagues.
Psychologist at the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation, Caroline van Oost is transforming herself into the character of the widow of a non commissioned officer who recently got flogged by the governor, whom she wants to hold accountable because she did nothing wrong. “You can imagine what she thinks of him, and she shows in with venom,” says Caroline. “... It’s a great experience to play a small part in this play and I am looking forward to the actual performance. A must see for all that’s for sure,” she assures anyone curious about the upcoming show.
Media columnist and writer, Lisa Davis BurnettI plays the Locksmith's wife, Fevronya Petrova Posliopkina . Lisa sees the role as a small one, but one that she hopes will be memorable. “The Locksmith’s wife is actually one of the only characters in the play that is truly pure of heart and not devious or ambitions. She is a simple woman with a single objective. I have the joy of being a part of this production which I feel is full of humor and ironic commentary on the failings of many, if not all, humans,” reflects Lisa.
Elena Kalinovskaja, is a teacher of biology at the Milton Peters College (MPC) and is acquainted with the Government Inspector by Gogol which was performed at her school during the Soviet era. Elena was born in the USSR, in Minsk (Belarus) but now lives in the Netherlands. In my role as a the wife of the School Inspector, I am probably the only one brave enough to ask if something is amiss when I greet the family and congratulate them for their good fortune – but where is lover-boy?, seems to have gone AWOL. “Every time I play the character I find something new to add. I also love our rehearsals and making new friends on St. Maarten,” said Elena.
The director, Albina Matuzko says she is so proud of her troupe and what it has achieved in such a short time and against such odds.
“When you have a group of 17 actors it is difficult to follow your own impulses. The production not therefore not mine as the director, but OURS. When you create something together, the relationship inside the group has to be close, like a family with trust, honesty, support and understanding. Together we ALL have to take risks and sometimes sacrifice other interests as a path to personal success,” offered the director.
“I am so proud of everyone and urge the whole St. Maarten community to come out and give them the support they really deserve,” said Albina.
She also thanks the sponsors who have made the production of The Government Inspector possible including: Prins Bernhard Cultuurfunds, Dutch Representatives in Philipsburg, Oranje Fond as part of SXM DOET event, Pineapple Pete, Wasabi Charlie, Carl and Sons and Firgos, (printer by name) TelEm Group, UTS, Daily Herald, Island Radio 92, and the team of volunteers who are helping out behind the scenes.
Tickets for the show are still available from cast members and from Director, Albina Matuzko (Mobile: Tel/Whatsapp: +1(721) 5226883) who warns that tickets for the two opening nights are going like hot cakes.