Writer: Anton Chekhov
Director: Timofey Kulyabin
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The joke goes: What do you call someone that speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American. And so it is for this reviewer at the Theatre of Nations’ brilliant production of Ivanov at New York City Center, as part of the Cherry Orchard Festival. With no Russian under one’s belt, the concept of seeing Chekhov’s work in its original language is slightly intimidating, even with English supertitles.
It turns out there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Even without the guiding text above the stage (which did fritz out on a few occasions, but quickly reappeared), Ivanov transcends language barriers. Timofey Kulyabin’s direction is relentless and fierce, with a fantastic cast, featuring Evgney Mironov in the titular role, that brings the semi-dated text to palpable life. In a contemporary setting with naturalistic acting, this production captivates. In a sea of unfamiliar syllables, the human story comprising flawed, even unlikable characters, proves gripping. The actors think on the words rather than between them, and the three hour run time flies by in a blink.
If one is going to see Chekhov, particularly one of his most challenging/problematic plays in its original language, Theatre of Nations’ production is definitely the one to see. It is stunning, witty, and moving. It is impossible to see this play and not be invested in and moved by these stunning performances. The run is short, so get tickets while the show is still gracing the stage at the beautiful New York City Center.
Runs until 17 June 2018 | Image: Sergei Petrov