Friday, April 20, 2012

Three Sisters at BAM

Photo: Victor Vasiliev
Chekhov probably wouldn’t have been too interested in Yoga instructors and other spiritual gurus who urge their followers to live in the now. In fact, the brilliant Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg’s production of Three Sisters currently playing at BAM presents Chekhov's world of nostalgia and anticipation, with a fervor characteristic of a whole different brand of Russian thinker, the l9th century anarchist and revolutionary.The audience’s relation to Alexander Borovosky’s design, a house behind which most of the action takes place is very much like that of the three sisters, Olga (Irina Tychinina), Masha (Elena Kalinina) and Irina’s (Ekaterina Tarasova) relation to reality. It also recalls Plato’s cave allegory. “There can be no happiness for us. We can only dream it.” “In two or three hundred years maybe a new happy life will dawn.” “What does it all mean? It’s snowing. What does it mean?” The great lines are all there, along with the tautologies which are the equations of the Chekhovian universe. If something is near it cannot be far away and if it’s far away it cannot be near is a typical locution. It’s a logic of annihilation in which the past is a taunting illusion that can neither be undone nor recaptured and the future exists only to diminish the present. Lev Dodin directs his cast with an almost evangelical stoicism; his blocking evokes a funeral procession of mourners and pallbearers, the living dead. Irina cannot bring herself to tell the Baron (Sergei Kuryshev) anything, still less that she loves him, and yet in the touching moments before the famous shot rings out, she momentarily tastes the manna of an elusive present. Is this what Heidegger meant by “being there?

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