Review: Cultures, love and humour collide in ‘First Metis Man of Odesa’

Photo credit: Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova wrote and perform in “First Metis Man of Odesa,” a play based on their own life stories. (Supplied / Photo by Olivia Swerhone-Wick, Persephone Theatre)

It’s a real-life love story that’s almost too remarkable to believe.

Persephone Main Stage is playing host to the Punctuate! Theatre production First Métis Man of Odesa, a biographical account of the love story between Matthew MacKenzie, a Métis writer from Edmonton, and Mariya Khomutova, an award-winning actor from Odesa, Ukraine. This unbelievable (yet true) story features MacKenzie and Khomutova playing fictionalized versions of themselves as they take the audience through the events of their lives — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the baby that lands in between.

A love story is always fascinating to watch, but a true love story that lands in the middle of a pandemic and a war seems wild to consider. MacKenzie and Khomutova capture the playfulness of new love and infuse humour into tragic events on Thursday night, making this story easier to absorb. While there are difficult moments and serious topics, it never delves into the full depths of depression and it manages to keep things moving along.

While imperfect and slow-starting, the play contains powerful commentary on global events. Khomutova reminds viewers that the lives of all Ukrainians are now split between before and after the Russian invasion. The display of genuine emotion and passion in Khomutova’s performance makes the conflict real for those in the audience who have the option of ignoring it. Even though she is performing in a play, this is her world and she invites the audience to join her, which is a harrowing feat.



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