Last week, I told you of the heroic efforts expended by the "War Horse" cast and crew to reach the theater after a hurricane. They, however, traveled in from Brooklyn and Queens and New Jersey. Olga Maakov made it from Moscow. I realize that the previous sentence seems as if it should belong to reporting about "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," the current occupant of LCT's Mitzi E. Newhouse, not to what transpires nightly at the Beaumont. But I assure you that you need not reach for your reading glasses: Olga Maakov made it from Moscow.
I learned of her saga just before curtain on Wednesday night this week. I was milling around the Beaumont lobby, doing my usual pre-performance patrol. A nor'easter was roaring away outside, causing the audience to show up inside the theater all wet and, as they passed through the doorway, attempt to shake themselves dry, like spaniels returned from the rain. I noticed a woman inspecting the waterlogged crowd, some of whom were complaining about the weather. She turned to her companion and humphed, "This is nothing. In Russia we call it spring thaw."
A woman so ostentatiously unconcerned with the elements could not go undisturbed. I introduced myself. Yes, this was Olga. At first she was wary of speaking with me, but, warmed up by her companion, an American called Emily Jones, she relaxed and told me her tale.
"I was supposed to fly in last week, Tuesday. I have an American cousin who was running the New York City marathon, and I promised her that if she ever did this race that I would come over and observe. On Tuesday, New York airports were closed. So instead I flew to London, where I have friends. I spent time there when I was younger to learn English." She continued: "My husband is a businessman who wanted to come to New York with me but work prevented him. Lucky him. He did not have to spend two days in London waiting around for a flight to New York. You think I spent all this time shopping? Nyet. I was glued to a computer screen hoping that my flight would come through."
More wet patrons poured in to the Beaumont, and Olga continued: "Finally, on Wednesday night, I was told my flight would take off the next morning. I went to Heathrow and spent hours hanging around, trying to read to pass the time but unable to. The flight was delayed and delayed and finally cancelled. I went back into London and imposed once again on my friends."
The Beaumont bells were sounding, indicating that the curtain would soon go up. But Olga continued: "I was getting worried I wouldn't make it to New York in time for the race. But very late on Thursday night something came through. I got to the airport early on Friday morning. The flight was delayed for a while but finally we took off. I arrived in New York Friday afternoon. While I was on the passport line I rang my cousin. She told me the marathon had just been cancelled. I was furious at first. I was ready to start Armageddon. My grandmother survived the siege of Leningrad. A hurricane? Nothing! But then I thought about all the news reports I had read about people who were homeless because of the storm. I realized that the race simply couldn't have been run this year."
As I escorted Olga and her friend to the ticket takers, I asked Olga how she had spent her time in New York. "Oh, it's been very exciting," she replied. "I watched the faux marathon in Central Park on Sunday. I went to an election-night party on Tuesday. I have had a nice lunch everyday. I was all ready to leave tonight, back to London and then Moscow. But then in mid-afternoon the snow began to fall. I thought: Americans are very brave but they don't remove snow like they do in Russia. So I wasn't surprised my flight was cancelled."
"I didn't want to sit home, so a friend of my cousin" - she pointed to Jones - "said we should come to Lincoln Center and see something. She wanted to go to the opera but I don't like opera. So we came here, to 'War Horse.' I saw the movie version once on an airplane flight and liked it very much. I realize that it doesn't give the Russian point of view but that's okay. We can tend our own history. We know we contributed to the first world war, and without us Hitler never would have been defeated. Yes, it's okay. If I can survive the past week, I can survive a story that doesn't have Russians."
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.