Gogol Review - Something To Think About

The world sure is full of absurdity and surprises making it one enormous mystery.  Our planet is full of those people.  Nikolai Gogol, a Russian writer, had already taken note of the absurdity of the world in the 19th century. Still today, in the year 2009, we see the same absurdity all over the world. Piven Theater thought there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to bring two of Gogol’s short stories to life.   Nose and Overcoat are two stories that embrace peculiar events and reveal some unpleasant characteristics of people that even today, surround us.

Brooks Darrah, Derek Czaplewski, Ravi Batista and Sam Wootten

Nose is a story about a man who faces an unimaginable loss. His nose has disappeared. It sounds like a ridiculous story and it wasn’t any surprise that it was. I didn’t really grasp the whole idea of how this would signify different connections throughout the world and networking between people. I think because it was so surealistic I didn’t take it seriously enough, even though I think it was supposed to be humorous, to get the point across. I was paying more attention to the actors and actresses and the way each one imbued their characters with energy. This writer was difficult to follow.  This was the first time I was exposed to Gogol’s work but quiet frankly, after this play, I don’t think I would enjoy reading anything he’s written. Though I was not captivated by this act, I sensed other people in the audience did enjoy the performance when I heard laughter.  The main character, played by Sam Wootten, really held the audiences attention with the charisma he brought to the stage.  He was a blast to watch.

Derek Czaplewski and Sam Wootten

 Overcoat was the more sensible and somber of the two acts. This story tells of a tale of an old, poor, bureaucrat that owns a worn down overcoat. He becomes the joke of the office and it only gets worse when his coworkers notice the rag he wears for his winter coat. He starts sacrificing all that he has in order to replace the frilly thing. At one point he starts eating less, sometimes skipping meals to save money. Once he finally obtains his prize possession, his coworkers change their positions and start treating him with more decency. After seizing this item, more tragedy occurs. He’s struck by a robber who flees with the coat he adores so much. He tells the police officials of the crime but is shortly reminded that he should not expect someone to come to his rescue. After being denied help numerous times, the old man lives in sickness until he dies from exposure to the bitter cold.  Karma sets in soon after as the ghost of the dead bureaucrat haunts those who refused to help. This story really hits home and I think much credit has to be given to Brooks Darrah, who played the main character. His performance helped me to sympathize with the character and understand the importance of the moral of the story.

Brooks Darrah and Ravi Batista

Not everyone is as unsympathetic and careless of other people as the ones who were portrayed in this story. However, I’m sure we’ve all encountered people like this at one point and have read and heard about true-life stories that mirror this one. Some people even appear to be good and helpful people but when someone confronts them with a problem, they look the other way. There’s no doubt the media recently has presented to the public these kind of people. This story reminds us how fragile people’s lives and feelings are and how evil the world can be. It made me question who to trust and who not to trust. It also made me realize that when all else fails, I’ll have to rely on myself to get me through. I wouldn’t say to initially distrust  people though. My advice is to trust people until they can’t be trusted.

Derek Czaplewski and Sam Wootten

I think Piven Theater had a good idea in presenting these plays to the public during the unpredictable times we are experiencing. They also seem to be doing a great job with aspiring actors. I pinpointed the main characters of both plays but a team creates a performance not just one person. With that said, I think all the actors and actresses did a great job with each of their characters and brought attention to the shows.  I think these shows deal with important issues.

Brooks Darrah, Derek Czaplewski, Ravi Batista, and Sam Wootten

For more information on Piven Theater and tickets click here.

Photos: Courtesy of Piven Theater

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