It would come as no surprise for anyone to hear, for example, that the same play by William Shakespeare or Anton Chekhov is staged at more than one theater of some city on the same night. For contemporary authors, though, such a situation is unlikely. Therefore, Ukrainian playwright Tetiana Ivashchenko found it extraordinary to see her play The Mystery of Life, dedicated to the incredible fate, career, marriage and love of Ivan Franko, to be staged in two theaters at the same time in Lviv, the city which played the crucial role in the national literature genius’s biography.
The Zankovetska National Theater hosted production I Met My Love Thrice, based on Ivashchenko’s play, as the first show of the Kolomyia Ivan Ozarkevych Ukrainian Drama Theater’s tour of Lviv. The second production of The Mystery of Life took place at Lviv’s First Ukrainian Theater for Young Audiences.
Although the main figures of stage storylines in both productions are Franko and his wife Olha Khoruzhynska, the directors’ approaches differ. The Kolomyia show’s director Serhii Kuzyk created a mighty period tale, serving as the music and plastic background for the poignant story of complicated and sometimes tragic circumstances of the pair’s family life. The wife’s love desire and jealousy came against the poet’s need to love a woman who, unfortunately, was not his spouse.
The Theater for Young Audiences’s production, directed by Volodymyr Borysiuk, was rather more formalist. Given the principal educational function of that theater, it focused more on Franko’s role as educator and writer.
Despite covering extraordinary human traits and studying emotional experiences of its characters, the play’s author dealt with Franko’s importance as a public figure, lyrical and passionate poet as well. Both performances stressed these points as well. Along with the sad and melancholic lines of “Why Do You Keep Coming to Me in My Dreams?” which have long been required reading in schools, the audience got to hear the Stonecutter Poet’s angry words about the need to fight for an independent Ukraine. Franko’s old maxims on this issue, which is still so painful in Ukraine, were extremely sensitively perceived at Lviv’s theaters and got a favorable emotional response from the appreciative audience.