O-H. LATE LOVESchool of Dramatic Art, Moscow
Участник программы «Russian Case» Фестиваля 2016 года
Director: Dmitry Krymov
Set designer: Anna Kostrikova, Alexander Barmenkov
In this dashing production flavored with the audacity and courage typical of student theatre, Dmitry Krymov in his sarcasm and irony goes further than the main Russian theatre paradoxalist of today Konstantin Bogomolov. The world of Ostrovsky is subjected to ruthless deconstruction. Out of the rarely staged play of the classic Krymov makes an outstanding parody of the generic features of Russian literature: self-sacrifice, self-humiliation, immaterialness, mysterious and undecoded “warm-heartedness”. Through the multilayer irony, however, one can notice the endless love and affection to the national heroes – throb-hearted freaks.
The mysterious exclamation "O-h" has several meanings here. It contains the encrypted surname of the playwright Alexander Ostrovsky, the author of the play "Late Love" as well as the unanimous cry of "Oh!" exclaimed by the audience in the final when the expected happy-end is suddenly replaced with a fatal shot in the chest. Nikolai (Alexander Kuznetsov) shoots himself because for him the forthcoming marriage and follow-up philistine "grandeur" is worse than death. The director Dmitry Krymov decided not to remount the play or combine it with any other piece. Nevertheless, Ostrovsky’s text sounds as if crumbled into individual letters and assembled again. When some letters get lost, the characters mumble something unclear (the text is reproduced on the screen), or play a tape with some didactic phrases recordered. Sometimes they add something for themselves but not contradicting to the original....
Just imagine. A playwright wrote a play. He spread out in front of him the neatly numbered leaves. And then a mouse ran by, waved its tail, the inkpot fell down and got broken, so the ink shamelessly flooded all the written and left chaotic black blots everywhere on the floor. These huge sheets of paper with the impressive blots are part of the performance setting made by the young artists Anna Kostrikova and Alexander Barmenkov, graduate students of Evgeny Kamenkovich and Dmitry Krymov’s course in GITIS. Actually, there is nothing else on the stage. The space is bared to the limit – up to the walls where the heap of lighting equipment wires are snaking in the numerous piers. And all these countless devices which seem to be the only things in the theater also take part in the performance. And they do not just hover above the playing space but impudently wedge into action. Then they put the blinding light at full capacity, then expose everything into the darkness, then delegate the next episode to an "energy-saving" light bulb to conduct, or they start exploding, or go along with the characters in a dashing dance with blinking colored lights. Alternatively, one can use the device as a "torturous" instrument if someone doesn’t want to give the desired document, or turn into something like an electric shocker. Just this light play deserves a separate article, but he performance boasts many other interesting things to see!...
... On the one hand, Krymov stage the play as written by Ostrovsky; the play is quite well-known though not as famous as "The Storm" or "Without a Dowry". In principle, he does not release it from its sentimentality and human manifestations. One can easily feel compassion with Ludmila with her box full of unneeded dowry when her beloved Nikolay (Alexander Kuznetsov) throws away all her old-fashioned shirts, bras and panties, while looking for his gun. One can also think with sympathy about the "suffering" Nikolay with his bloodshot eyes and unsatisfied ambition. On the other hand, the director does not want to accept as an axiom the theatre happy-end and immediate "reformation" of the characters. He looks at it with the today’s eyes and simultaneously through the Gogol’s prism with its "pig snouts" and other unpleasantly looking but trustworthy details. And he looks further in what will happen after the happy-end: what could have happened to the impulsive and not devoid of mind Nikolay and the prematurely aged, not very clever and fanatical in her affections Ludmila? The director doesn’t see a bright future for them that is why he provokes Nikolay (Kuznetsov) to play a small episode from the life of Podkolesin. The fact that the frustrated bridegroom runs through the door instead of jumping out of the window, does not change the main thing.
When he is forced to sit up on the chair next to Ludmila (Smolnikova) who has gathered all her panties and bras in the hem of her dress (as if being pregnant and having a big belly), he looks at her and around with such a great melancholy, so that he grins and shoots himself. Here another "oh!" comes out of the viewers’ mouths. Inspite of the fact that the shot affected the right side of Nikolay’s chest; it leaves him no hope to survive. And indeed, in such a story death could be even more desired...
St Petersburg Theatre Magazine
"Late Love" is not the most popular play by Ostrovsky. Its main theme is the collision of the world of love with the world of money. In Krymov’s production the traditional Russian classics is turned inside out. Precisely following the author’s plot and text, the director abruptly changes the usual style. There are no moth-eaten ideas, or moralizing pathos, or boring generalizations. Krymov wouldn’t be Krymov if he wouldn’t present a totally unpredictable show to the audience: a generously laced with dark humor comics about mutant people unable to love.
For the director who is also an artist, imagery is always more important than words. He emphatically puts the action in a non-fiction space. There are no stage scenery rather than two or three sheets of drawing paper splattered with black paint and the spotlights with protruding wires put down from the traveller. Against this background, the characters’ appearance is the conductor in the tragicomic “world behind the looking-glass mirror” of Krymov. Here the lady of the house Felitsata Antonovna is converted into a gray-haired matron with incredibly big inflatable bust.
Her funseeking son Nikolay acquires the features of Count Dracula. Ludmila Gerasimovna who is in love with him obtains Brezhnev-like eyebrows. Lebyadkin’s widow demonstrates to the public her lacy stockings, bald head and ... ability to fight like Jackie Chan. All actors of the play have a very complex makeup. Plus, all female characters are played by young men (you can’t take your eyes off from how they do it!!).
External absurdity for Krymov is a clear sign of mental "degeneration". In his performance all these Felitsatas, Lebyadkins and Dormedonts are not people, but freaks and mutants unable to love, regret, understand and forgive. They all want money and dream about connections in upper classes. And for this sake they are ready to torture and even kill each other (in the performance they beat each other to the blood). The fact that in this “terrarium” Ludmila Gerasimovna is able to have feelings seems to be amazing and improbable. And Krymov emphasizes it with the final scene of her wedding – her bridegroom Nikolay shoots himself in front of the altar. No doubt, the conclusion is rather bitter, without a doubt. But do not worry the final is going to be life-affirming. The Ostrovsky’s characters wonderfully dancing hip-hop deserve a special notice.
«Vash Dosug» Magazine