'Caterpillar Soup' Spreads Its Wings

The Butterfly Takes Flight

Two years ago, while hiking in Malibu's Charmlee Park with her boyfriend Dean, she saw a tree that was begging to be climbed. She was twenty-five feet above the ground when she heard the crack. The branch gave way beneath her, the ground rose up to meet her, and in an instant, Lyena Strelkoff became a paraplegic.  
A beautiful and eclectic actress, dancer, performance artist and poet, her life was forever altered by the accident. It would have been easy to parley the experience into a plea for sympathy or treat her show like an after-school special, but from the moment Ms. Strelkoff rolls onto the stage and begins the story of her accident and subsequent road to recovery, it's clear that Caterpillar Soup will be none of these things. With an easy smile, she recounts how the fateful day began with perhaps the best orgasm of her life, disarming us with her frankness and irreverent humor, and setting the tone for an earnest, amusing, and powerful story. Ms. Strelkoff instantly affirms that she's here to talk about life, not just the accident that changed it. 

Just before a caterpillar makes its metamorphosis into a butterfly, it breaks down completely, dissolving into liquid before assuming its final form. While this would be an easy metaphor to hide behind, extolling the virtues of faith, perseverance and the ultimate reemergence as a fully formed, newly improved version of oneself, Ms. Strelkoff avoids the temptation. A master storyteller, she instead shares her full experience - the heartbreaking realization that she may never walk again, the support of her friends and family, the feelings of inadequacy and rage that haunted her during the recovery, blossoming relationship with Dean, and the nagging questions of what she could have done differently.

Instead of shying away from the difficult moments, she embraces them with the same fervor as the high points. She walks a fine line, neither allowing her handicap to become her sole focus, nor relegating it to the background. Hers is not a cry for attention, help, or even sympathy - it's a request for understanding. Wearing her heart on her sleeve for our benefit, Ms. Strelkoff tempers the raw emotions with a healthy dose of humor and the insights she's gleaned from the experience.
What also sets the show apart is the love story with Dean. The sacrifices they've made for each other and the love that illuminates Ms. Strelkoff's face at the mere mention of him defy anyone to question the existence of romance and serve as a poignant reminder that Ms. Strelkoff's handicap is not what defines her being, but just one of the experiences that has shaped her outlook on life. 

Using a minimalist backdrop and a sparse music, director Paul Linke wisely puts the focus entirely on Ms. Strelkoff, allowing her to draw us in with her compelling storytelling. In addition, Santa Monica's intimate Ruskin Group Theatre provides the perfect venue for the show, most of the audience seated so close to Ms. Strelkoff that the piece at times feels more like a casual conversation between friends. Ms. Strelkoff furthers this sense of connection by embracing her audience, often making eye contact and speaking to us directly, sharing her story in the personal sense.   

Lyena Strelkoff - writer and star

Ms. Strelkoff speaks candidly about the triumphs and pitfalls of her recovery process, as well as the daily obstacles and logistical difficulties she faces, never once sugarcoating her experience or shielding us from the gory details. By unequivocally inviting us into her world, Ms. Strelkoff strips away the veneer of so-called political correctness that we so often hide behind. Diving head-on into questions that we want to ask but don't dare, as well as those that simply wouldn't occur to us, she takes us into her confidence and makes us empathic participants in the experience, rather than mere observers.

In the show, Ms. Strelkoff defines hope as "the belief in possibility," and faith as "the belief in inevitability." Like most of us, she wanted the inevitability of faith - the certainty that she would emerge from her cocoon fully healed and ready to take flight. But her experience has taught her that nothing in life is certain, there will always be things beyond our control. Romance, love and overcoming adversity are important and noble goals, but in the end, Caterpillar Soup is about something far greater - the belief in possibility.   
Caterpillar Soup runs through December 18, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays (No Sundays in December) at 2 p.m. at the Ruskin Group Theatre. The show will be dark Thanksgiving weekend but wil resume in December.

If you would like to find out more about the Ruskin Group Theater you may call the box office at 310.397.3244 or visit the website at: ruskingrouptheatre.com


Top of Page

Join Splash Magazines

Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash
<!-- #wrapper -->