In Imago Theatre's latest production, Vladimir Vladimir, everything new is old again... or is it the other way around? The show opens in Vladimir and Natasia's rundown LA apartment: Yugoslavian immigrant Vladimir (Jerry Mouawad) is a frustrated magician who makes his meager living working children's birthday parties, while his wife Natasia (Carol Triffle) channels her fears and frustrations into shoplifting. Vladimir and Natasia are joined by their American friends Ralph (John San Nicolas) and Alice (Megan Skye Hale), both of whom have inexplicable New York accents and are also dressed like Eastern European immigrants. Vladimir has been working on a big illusion—one that he hopes will propel him into the stardom he longs for and will solve all of his problems.
Soon, however, we see another Vladimir, in another apartment. This one is lavish and garishly opulent, and this Vladimir is successful. He and Natasia have hit it big, and Ralph and Alice are their business partners. This Vladimir is also unhappy, though he possesses the very things the other Vladimir longs for. And this Vladimir, too, is working on a big new illusion—one that he hopes will take him far away from his problems.
In the show's one flashy moment, the trick works: The Vladimirs are transported into each other's parallel universes, and as they try to sort out what the heck happened—and how to change it back, and whether or not they even want to change it—each of them learns a little bit more about themselves.
In relation to other shows currently out there, Vladimir Vladimir is perfectly serviceable. It's not especially engaging, and the first act drags, but it's somewhat amusing. But for a company with Imago's reputation, history, and ability to push boundaries, this show is truly a disappointment. It takes itself too seriously to be a good comedy, but it's written too shallowly to be a good drama. It has some funny moments, sure—but for all the pretentious trumpeting of their own experience that the folks at Imago are prone to do, this show falls far short of the mark they've set for themselves.