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Garofalo Shrieks in Sex-Trade Drama ‘Russian Transport’

Morgan Spector and Sarah Steele in
Morgan Spector and Sarah Steele in "Russian Transport" in New York. The drama by Erika Sheffer is presented by The New Group and runs through March 10 at off-Broadway's Acorn Theatre. Photographer: Monique Carboni/New Group via Bloomberg

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- As Diana, the put-upon wife of a Brooklyn car service owner struggling to make ends meet, Janeane Garofalo mostly keeps the volume dial at 10.

She’s brutal to their teenage daughter Mira and even tougher on their son, Alex, who must turn over all of his earnings from working for Dad. (He still manages to slink around their depressing Brighton Beach home in designer jeans).

When Diana’s hunky brother Boris arrives from Russia, she leaps into his arms like a schoolgirl.

Boris, who has no visible means of support beyond the gun always close at hand, quickly assesses the situation. He gets Alex working for him, sets Mira’s hormones racing and treats Misha, Diana’s poor slob of a husband, like a loser.

All this intrigue has the makings of a savage play about this oceanfront Russian enclave of New York City.

Newcomer Erika Sheffer may someday even write it. But the New Group and its artistic director Scott Elliott (who staged this) are usually more reliable at developing work until it’s ready for primetime.

Head-Scratching

“Russian Transport” runs out of gas long before an incomprehensible ending that involves Alex, his cab and a fresh-off-the-boat Russian girl about to disappear into the sex trade.

Secrets and betrayals are the stuff of family dramas, but the tone of “Russian Transport” fluctuates as wildly as the volume, leaving only head-scratching in the end.

There’s one big however, here: Sarah Steele is a young actress who’s gone from strength to strength in “Speech & Debate,” “All-American” and now this, where she plays not only the lovably insecure Mira but each of the girls Alex picks up at the airport for destinations unknown. She’s one to watch.

Through March 10 at the Acorn Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com or http://www.theatrerow.org/theacorn.htm. Rating: *

What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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