Welcome to “The marriage proposal”

Russian-belarusian project on stage of the national academic drama theatre named after yanka kupala promises full-houses
Russian-belarusian project on stage of the national academic drama theatre named after yanka kupala promises full-houses.

Everything is messed up in the Oblonskie’s house… For some reason, exactly this first phrase from the novel “Anna Karenina” by L. Tolstoi, which has already become a catch one, was on the tip of my tongue when the performance started. Frankly speaking, from the very first scenes of the performance I felt knocked senseless, discouraged and even deceived by the theater itself and all the stage managers altogether. What’s that to Chekhov? Where is he? Where is this great expert of human souls whose plays took the theater audience by storm? I did not see him in this bacchanalia of sounds that hammered the audience, songs and dances, patters and repetitions of the same text which at first seemed absolute nonsense. What are all these fables for? They remind the hand of the great moviemaker Federiko Fellini, and the style of the Lithuanian stage director Eimuntas Nyakroshus, and Moscow Taganka Theater…

But soon I changed my mind.

Right after the guest’s dance — a 30-year-old midwife wearing bright crimson dress, who, as some other characters, was played simultaneously by three Kupala theater actresses (six in two casts), all that in the very beginning perplexed my mind and was about to make me a nihilist, suddenly arranged in the right order. Pity stirred in my heart: that was our life, yours and mine, where accidental vaudeville music and provincialism find their place. It is the very provincialism that was noticed by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov when he was still a young writer, and that is peculiar not only to geographical environment of some God forsaken place, but also to people as part of their nature. Personally, I associate provincialism with haughtiness, aplomb, foney authority and other components of human weakness. And I felt so miserable thinking of us, “humans”, just as Chekhov did.

Practically all the characters of the play cannot boast of culture or sophistication, they are provincial to their bones: both older and young generations. Even such well-bred and modest characters, who seem to be black sheep against the background of the emancipated youth, as fiancйe Dashenka (the Honored Artist of Belarus Zinaida Zubkova) and Greek confectioner Dymba (the People’s Artist of Belarus Nikolai Kirichenko) are provincials too. They are flesh and blood of their environment where life is ruled by primitive everyday moral philosophy acting simple, and stupidity pretending to be intelligence, and exceptionality that cannot find their way.

To say that I enjoyed every single moment of the theatrical action during the opening night of “The Marriage Proposal” in the interpretation of Vladimir Pankov, Moscow stage director, in the performance of two casts, means to say nothing at all. By the way, the stage director worked on the performance in tandem with his team: art director Maksim Obrezkov, choreographer Elena Bogdanovich, costume designer Natallia Zholobova and Sergei Agafonov. Andrei Zavodiuk, an actor of A.S. Pushkin Moscow Drama Theater plays the part of the fiancee. The parade of individualities is headed by actors from the Yanka Kupala Theater: Gennadi Garbuk, Arnold Pomazan, Natallia Kochetkova etc.

The performance, scrupulously thought over, organized and developed, more and more convinced me that Chekhov’s spirit, like aqua vitae, leaked out of the pressed multi-layer stage life. And this performance spirit reminds of invisible gluons (powers in quantum mechanics, which prevent atomic particles universe from turning into chaos– Auth.). It seems to stick together all the layers of this polyphony performance: interpersonal, temporary…, prevents them from falling into pieces.

The action takes place as if simultaneously at all scenes and levels of life, and the characters seem to appear both in the past and in the future at the same time. What is more, the multilayer stage structure perfectly fits all these transits and “jumps”. But, I must confess, it is not so easy to perceive this stage spirit using only your visual and hearing senses: consciousness seems unable to comprehend all the performance elements where every single character screws up his courage and leads his part. However, it seems almost impossible to give the palm to any of these actors who brightly personify Chekhov’s satirical types of provincial middle class characters: that is a good proof of stage managers’ work — they achieved powerful ensemble acting. The performance is a burst of phrases, replies, songs, dance pas, musical passages, things… Pankov combines various types of music styles and directions quite easily, for example, music by Igor Stravinskii perfectly coexists with Belarusian ceremonial songs, folklore and even the chartbuster of the Soviet times “Alesia”. Different types of actor schools perfectly coexist in the performance.

Just have a look at the wedding table ceremony with participation of People’s Artist of Belarus Gennadi Ovsiannikov, psychological theater artist (“general” Revunov-Karaulov) — it is worth seeing! Owing to conceptual composition of the whole performance, when every actor knows what he has to do, taking into account the actions of stage-partners, the scene of the wedding table ceremony is perceived as complete “performance in performance”. And just look at these lively, recognizable human types at this picturesque theatrical canvas! Someone is eating, someone is drinking, someone is snuffling tired of listening to Karaulov’s nebulous disquisitions, someone surprised opens his mouth and hangs upon Karaulov’s lips, and someone stays put just because of a pretty girl sitting next to him… It is a great pleasure to watch the characters’ facial expression, their gestures, listen attentively to intonation and enjoy the “flavor” of theatrical performance, those details and discoveries which help the actors to create character images.

The performance speed is so high, that you start wondering how the actors manage to follow it. Within this hour and a half the energy bursts, it strikes. And the actors seem to enjoy sitting on a barrel of gunpowder. Each and every character — “old men” and youth work ecstatically, demonstrating excellent form. The same things can be said about the artists of live orchestra, as each of them performs his own part in this competently actuated mechanism of theatrical performance. Undoubtedly, the mechanism spring will be successfully untied. And during the final stage I, amazed by novelty of the sound drama style (and of course, the majority of the audience), noted with satisfaction that the «dish» presented in cooperation with Russians hit the Minsk audience’s taste. Chekhov’s tranquil melancholy is alive in the best features of a human nature, our best features. At least, I felt it.

Valentina Zhdanovich
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