Griboyedov-Blues aáFeisty Take onáWoe From Wit
The Moscow Times
Russian culture Ś byáwhich Iámean the world ofáthe arts Ś isálocked ináaábattle, the likes ofáwhich have not been seen here for decades.
Many know events ináNovosibirsk where aádirector, aátheater manager and aáproduction ofáRichard Wagner's Tannhauser fell victim toáattacks from the state and church. But Tannhauser isáthe tip ofáthe iceberg.
New confrontations affect theaters and artists almost daily. InáMoscow the Open Stage project was taken over byáaámanaging director who canceled all projects preceding his appointment, wiping out years ofáwork. InáPskov aátheater troupe recently attempted toáclose aáshow before itáopened, denouncing director Varvara Faer toáRussian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.
The disgruntled actors claimed that Faer's The Banya Master, based onáinterviews done with locals, offended them with obscenity, nudity and anáirreverent view ofátheir city.
Anatoly Ledukhovsky's Griboyedov-Blues atáMoscow's Home Theater atáthe Shchepkin House has nothing and everything toádoáwith this trend.
The fact isáthat even ancient history, like Russia ináthe 1820s when Alexander Griboyedov wrote his great comedy Woe From Wit, has ways ofáresonating clearly with the present.
Griboyedov isáanáicon ofáindependence and opposition ináRussia. His play was banned until 30áyears after his death, inápart for cascades ofápithy phrases satirizing power, stupidity and that human penchant for groveling. Itástruck too close toáhome for those with reputations toádefend, and they attempted toábury it.
Ledukhovsky's clever show, rather like one created two years ago byáGeorg Genoux and Nikolai Berman based onáthe writings ofáthe banned 19th-century philosopher Pyotr Chaadayev, isáanáindication that the conflicts surrounding usánow have roots and precedents ináthe distant past.
Ináthe case ofáGriboyedov Blues, the connection isámade cleverly. Ledukhovsky imagines aámodern television talk show whose special guest isáAlexander Chatsky, the great-great-great-grandson ofáthe leading character ináWoe From Wit, who has flown into Moscow from his home ináthe United States especially for the broadcast.
This Chatsky, played byáYulia Bogdanovich ináaáclassic black suit that would look asásharp ináthe 19th century asáitádoes ináthe 21st, isámore than the host can handle. Heáisárude, aggressive, caustic and loose-mannered ináaákind ofáAmerican way, asáwell asáwitty and acerbic aálaáRusse. Heáspouts lines that his literary character-ancestor speaks ináGriboyedov's play, repeatedly confounding the toy-doll host who isásoácheery and intent onádigging upánews, ifánot dirt, that she rarely sees the zingers flying past her.
Bogdanovich invests Chatsky with anáabundance ofábitterness and sarcasm. Hiding behind impenetrable dark glasses, slouched rudely ináhis chair, and spitting invectives drawn from the canonic text ofáWoe From Wit, this Chatsky unleashes withering attacks onáignorance and banality.
All ofáthis takes place amid one ofáthose mindless gimmicks whereby spectators are asked toácall ináand vote for the greatest name ináRussian history. IsáitáPeter the Great? Pushkin? Stalin? Griboyedov?
Naturally, the phone system and voting mechanism break down, constantly forcing the talk-show host Sofya Pavlovna toáimprovise, which she does toáfine comic effect.
Olesya Mozdir's Sofya Pavlovna isáaáhoot. Bubbly, energetic, quick-tongued but more often slow ofámind, she isáone ofáthose train wrecks weálove toáwatch happen. She seems not toánotice that Chatsky, unleashing aádeath rattle from time toátime, may beáaávampire, aádevil, orájust plain dead. Her job isátoáentertain and she does that, come hell oráhigh water.
Things turn purposefully kitschy when Conchita Wurst (Yury Ageny), the drag queen winner ofáthe 2014áEurovision song contest, enters toáprovide some diversionary song and dance.
Perhaps too late, the performance takes another detour ináanáobscure, prolonged epilogue that ináaápseudo blues-tinged environment, sees all three characters continue their debate about Russia and its mission.
Asáspot-on as some ofáthe text was here, itáadded little that the main part ofáthe show had not already accomplished.
Atáits best, however, Griboyedov Blues unleashes aápowerful punch atáthe state ofápublic discourse ináRussia today.
─ŠţÝ ďŔńýÓÝ, 29.04.2015
- Griboyedov-Blues aáFeisty Take onáWoe From Wit, ─ŠţÝ ďŔńýÓÝ, The Moscow Times, [29.04.2015]
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