Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov joins Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, the team behind the internationally acclaimed Big Dance Theater, to bring two different stories of unfulfilled longing and unrequited love to the stage in “Man in a Case,”a multi-media avant-garde production that highlights their signature style offusing theater, dance, music and video.
“Man in a Case” and “About Love”are an adaptation of two anti-love, haunting short stories by Anton Chekhov that create a bridge between our time and the 19th-century. Chekhov uses the device of a tale within a tale. The stories, each told by a different man sharing stories late into the night during a casual hunting trip, are part of a trilogy of Russian country tales from which the middle one, Gooseberries, has been omitted.
The first story is about Belikov (Mikhail Baryshnikov), an anti-social, unpopular, paranoid, feared and officious teacher of Greek, and his involvement and infatuation with Barbara (Tymberly Canale), a beautiful extroverted Ukrainian woman, the sister of Mikhail Kovalenko (Aaron Mattocks), a new teacher assigned to his school.
Belikov lives his rigid, reclusive life in a “shell” or a “case,” locking himself in his apartment with several bolts. He clings to official regulations, insisting others do so as well, and visits his colleagues because it’s the accepted thing to do. Everyone encourages his relationship with Barbara, hoping marriage would reduce Belikov’s many unpopular traits. However, after someone draws and circulates a vulgar cartoon of him and Barbara, he is humiliated and depressed, and retreats in tragedy.
In “About Love,”the shorter second story, the protagonist, Alehin (Baryshnikov) falls deeply in love with Anna Alexyevna (Canale), the beautiful wife of his very close friend, Luganovitch. Convention forces them to part when Anna will not forsake her husband and family.
This is experimental theater that features many different and interesting facets of dance, visual, scenic and other forms. Baryshnikov, who started studying ballet at the age of nine, even dances a little, but don’t expect to see him pirouette across the stage or do a pas de deux. He is on stage moving gracefully nearly every minute in these stories of thwarted love and is completely at ease, thanks to his veteran talents and many years of dance discipline and screen and stage performances.
Although seated in the second row of the beautiful Broad Stage I found the sound intermittently indistinct, particularly in the important opening few minutes of the show. The entire stellar cast performs beautifully and there are some delightfully humorous moments, but I personally would have liked to see some more dancing from a group with the name of Big Dance Theater.
All photographs credit T. Charles Ericson
Artistic: Adaptation & Direction Annie-B Parson & Paul Lazar/Big Dance Theater Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
Ensemble cast featuring: Mikhail Baryshinikov (Belikov), Jess Barballo (Hunter/Burkin), Tymberly Canale (Barbara),Chris Giarmo (Hunter/Ivan), Aaron Mattocks (Kovalenko)
Creative team: Peter Ksander Set Designer, Oana Botez Costume Designer, Jennifer Tipton Lighting Designer, Tei Blow Sound Designer, Jeff Larson Video Designer
Produced by Baryshnikov productions in association with ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann. Commissioned and premiered by Hartford Stage Company, Hartford, CT, (Darko Tresnjak, Artistic Director, Michael Stotts, Managing Dirctor) on March 1, 2013
From April 24th to May 10th
April 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
May 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
April 26, 27, 30, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
May 3, 4, 10, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
Running time: I hour, 15 minutes with no intermission.
Please be advised there is NO LATE SEATING for this show.
Ticket Prices: $47 to $137
Showing at THE BROAD STAGE
Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center,,1310 11th Street Santa Monica, California 90405. Parking is free.