Manor passions – Newspaper Kommersant No. 121 (7083) from 07/14/2021

Graduates of the Nikita Mikhalkov Academy of Cinematographic and Theater Arts showed the play “Scenes from Countryside Life”, which arose from laboratory work with the director and teacher Anatoly Vasiliev, who in this case also acted as a playwright, making his own stage composition based on Anton Chekhov’s play “Uncle Vanya” … Tells Olga Fedyanina.

Student performances are, strictly speaking, a separate, not entirely public genre, they have special goals and objectives, in the center there are always young, usually unknown actors who need to “show themselves”, to appear as figures on a theatrical map of a city or country. But it is not so rare in educational theaters, and sometimes even just in college auditoriums, premieres appear, which you need to keep up with before they disappear from the poster. Here and “Scenes from Countryside Life” – a stage composition based on Chekhov’s play “Uncle Vanya”, played by graduates of the Academy of Cinematographic and Theater Arts Nikita Mikhalkov, a student chamber performance – turned out to be one of the notable events of the troubled pandemic season. No one will be told of offense, this happened not least because of one name on the poster.

Director Anatoly Vasiliev once, and not so long ago, had his own theater in the center of Moscow, and a course at GITIS, and then the student works of his students naturally flowed from the institute audiences to the stage. Today Vasiliev has neither theater nor course; he remains a rare precious guest performer on the Moscow stage, both as a director and as a teacher. Such a pedagogical “tour” was laboratory work with the actors of the academy, and this was enough for the audience to go to the branch of the educational theater of GITIS (on the stage of which the academy plays either on a temporary or permanent basis) right up to the edge of Novye Cheryomushki, went to the red-hot July Moscow, in which the sacramental remark of one of the characters of “Uncle Vanya”, Dr. Astrov, is so ironic: “It must be hot in this very Africa now – a terrible thing.” These words, however, like many other remarks from the play, will appear in the play only as a text projection on the screen.

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On the playbill “Scenes” Vasiliev is listed as the author of the literary and stage composition, the stage director is actress and director Maria Shmaevich (she also participates in the play in the almost silent role of Voinitsky’s mother, Maria Vasilievna). The composition here is the concept: Vasiliev the playwright did a work that was both elegant and decisive, he removed the plot itself from Chekhov’s plot, leaving the “nine duets about love” indicated in the subtitle of the performance. What practical circumstances, obligations and relationships connect the villagers Ivan Voinitsky (Maxim Grigoriev), his niece Sonya (Khristina Poluyanova), Doctor Astrov (Nikita Bashkov) with Professor Serebryakov (Anton Netbai) and Elena (Yanina Tretyakova) who have come in large numbers from a completely different life ), the performance is not interested. The fate of the family estate, which Sonya and Uncle Vanya manage so regularly, their disappointment in their former idol professor, even ridiculous attempts at murder and suicide – all this is bypassed, everything is not needed, and if mentioned, then forwarded, a reminder for those who are already I know. Instead, on stage, the characters are immersed in an all-encompassing love dialogue, a story of mutual and unrequited charms, attractions, rejections, doubts, disappointments. Here everyone is divided into pairs – those who have happened and those who have not happened, everyone is in love or in longing for love, they comprehend its possibility and impossibility, experience it as longing, as an illusion, as a temptation and a game of pride.

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All this, according to the Hamburg account, requires from the actors virtuosity, which recent graduates do not and cannot have, and according to the laws of which it is impossible and unfair to judge them. And Vasiliev the teacher here wins in a different way than Vasiliev the playwright. In the play, it is not the individual perfection of each role that wins, but the reckless universal immersion in the proposed game, the totality of this game, leaving no room for anything else, as if nothing else exists on earth. This exhaustive, reckless “gets” out of Chekhov’s play an unusual second level: its hopelessness loses its melancholy. The hopelessness in Scenes from Countryside Life is a doom to love, a condemnation to it, and not at all to the hateful provincial boredom or the routine of a vulgar life. It is the total doom to love that gives the performance its atmosphere, and not at all stylish photo panels with black and white country-house motives and portraits of the era, against which the action takes place. And not the sultry Italian pop tunes of Telegin (Ivan Popov) with a guitar. Both the photographs and the Italian pop sound just create not so much an atmosphere as a strange misunderstanding, because they look like an ironic quote reminiscent of the films of the founding father of the Academy of Cinematic and Theater Arts. And suddenly they are forced to remember that Nikita Mikhalkov and Anatoly Vasiliev are directors of the same generation. But if Mikhalkov’s homeyard neurosis is a posthumous cry of a stylized past, then Vasiliev needs all the estates of this world only to be on stage in the present, in the time of play and love.

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