War in Ukraine leads La Jolla Playhouse to pull ‘Mother Russia’ from fall schedule

La Jolla Playhouse's world premiere production of playwright Lauren Yee's "Mother Russia" has been postponed.
La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere production of playwright Lauren Yee’s “Mother Russia” has been postponed to the 2023-24 season.

The play will be replaced by the comedy ‘Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord.’


La Jolla Playhouse announced April 20 that it is postponing its planned world premiere production of Lauren Yee’s play “Mother Russia” in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. The play will move from its fall 2022 slot to the 2023-24 season.

Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley said the uncertainty of the world events led to the decision to postpone “Mother Russia” “in consultation with the show’s creative team.”

“The production is currently planned for 2023, allowing the creative team additional time for reconsideration of certain script and production elements,” Ashley said in a statement. “We remain excited to produce Lauren’s timely exploration of the ongoing political systems we find ourselves in.”

“Mother Russia” is the second Russia-themed play withdrawn from production this year by a San Diego theater. In mid-March, Cygnet Theatre announced it was postponing to a future season the Russian war-themed musical “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.”

Yee’s “Mother Russia” was originally scheduled for La Jolla Playhouse’s 2020 season but was postponed two years by the COVID-19 pandemic. The comedy, set during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990s St. Petersburg, is about two barely competent surveillance workers assigned to track the movements of a fallen pop star.

Replacing “Mother Russia” in the fall slot — Sept. 20 through Oct. 16 — will be the comedy “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord.” The play is written and performed by Wong, who was featured in La Jolla Playhouse’s Digital Without Walls production of “Binge.” The play will be directed by Chay Yew, who led the playhouse’s 2019 production of Yee’s musical “Cambodian Rock Band.”

Kristina Wong's play "Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord" will replace "Mother Russia" on La Jolla Playhouse's fall schedule.
(La Jolla Playhouse)

“Kristina Wong is a one-of-a-kind performer and activist whom we’re delighted to bring back to the playhouse, this time in person,” Ashley said. “During the pandemic, Kristina started a volunteer mask-sewing group of ‘aunties,’ which inspired this acclaimed, wildly funny new solo performance piece.”

The play begins on the third day of the pandemic when Wong begins sewing face masks out of old bedsheets and bra straps on her Hello Kitty sewing machine. Before long, she’s leading her Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home sweatshop of hundreds of volunteers, including children and Wong’s mother. ◆