Review - Ivanov
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by Michael Dale
Did somebody decide when I wasn’t listening that this would be the season where all translations of classic plays must contain occasional forays into anachronistic contemporary language? First came An Enemy of the People and Cyrano de Bergerac, and now Carol Rocamora’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Ivanov, being used in CSC’s schizophrenically handsome/punkish production, would have us believing the playwright had his characters uttering the 19th Century Russian equivalents of “harangue,” “He’s a real operator” and “Hope you choke.”
Regarded as Chekhov’s Hamlet – probably because the title character has a lengthy soliloquy where he keeps referring to himself as Hamlet – this youthful effort helps establish the playwright’s tradition of dramatizing tales of financial woes set in grand estates.
Director Austin Pendleton’s staging has Ethan Hawke as Nikolai Ivanov, the guilt-ridden, self-loathing land owner who tried fixing his finances by marrying Anna (Joely Richardson), from a wealthy Jewish family. But Anna lost her dowry when her parents disowned her for converting. Now she’s dying of tuberculosis and her husband not only ignores the doctor’s recommendation to send her to Crimea, but ponders an affair with young Sasha (Juliet Rylance), the daughter of one of his creditors.
Marco Piemontese’s period costumes and Santo Loquasto’s striking setting – the front façade of a fine mansion with just enough open space to suggest the rooms inside – provide suitably stately visuals and the first half of the play, mostly expository scenes involving supporting characters, is enjoyably played in the familiar manner. Particularly humorous is the elderly elitist give and take between Pendleton, filling in for the injured Louis Zorich as Sasha’s father, and George Morfogen as a gregarious count. Richardson’s quiet moments when she sees her marriage crumbling are very effective and Jonathan Marc Sherman also stands out in the fine ensemble as the young moralistic doctor.
It’s not until the second half of the play when the title character begins dominating the proceedings, particularly with a lengthy soliloquy where Hawke appears to have been directed to address the audience, a practice that hadn’t been establish previously in the production. His contemporary physicality as Ivanov confronts his own depression plays like a bad-boy rocker trying to rouse up the crowd with his rebellious anger. In one sardonic moment he reacts to a mention of hisalma materwith a half-hearted fist pump and the established realism play is cracked when he runs up the aisle, making the actor invisible to the audience during his verbal confrontation with the doctor.
Hawke is a capable stage actor and, to his credit, he passionately dives into the interpretation with full commitment. And perhaps there is an intentional contrast of his modern spin to the rest of the production, as there are in those contemporary blurts in the text. But nevertheless, the result undercuts what works well in the evening and lays focus on the performer instead of the character.
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"Satire is people as they are; romanticism, people as they would like to be; realism, people as they seem with their insides left out."
-- Dawn Powell
The grosses are out for the week ending 11/18/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: A CHRISTMAS STORY (18.8%), SCANDALOUS (13.4%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (11.6%), BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (10.4%), CYRANO DE BERGERAC (8.6%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (7.8%), ONCE (6.4%), THE LION KING (5.9%), WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf? (5.2%), NEWSIES (4.8%), WICKED (4.7%), War Horse (3.0%), DEAD ACCOUNTS (2.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2.7%), AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (2.2%), MARY POPPINS (2.2%), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (2.1%), JERSEY BOYS (1.7%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK(1.4%),
Down for the week was: ELF (-15.5%), GOLDEN BOY (-9.7%), ANNIE (-7.8%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (-4.7%), GRACE (-2.5%), ROCK OF AGES (-2.1%), THE HEIRESS (-1.6%), THE PERFORMERS (-1.2%), EVITA (-1.1%), MAMMA MIA! (-1.1%), CHICAGO (-0.9%), CHAPLIN (-0.1%),