In Paris / Gerald W. Lynch Theater, NYC / August 1-5, 2012
In Paris: It’s the quietest production imaginable, built—by Dmitry Krymov—through words (in Russian, French, and English), grainy black and white projected images (most often of words), haunting song, and a flying rig. It dramatizes a short story by the Russian writer Ivan Bunin. It sold out for five days in New York, at the intimate Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and is about to embark on an extended tour.
It tells the story of an aging exiled White Russian army general living a piercingly lonely existence in the City of Light. In a low-end restaurant he meets a young woman—his waitress—in similar circumstances of displacement. Of course they fall in love, but nothing can blot out their loneliness. Given their situation, they’re condemned to melancholy. The tale is fragile in its impact; perhaps only Chekhov could have empowered it.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, who plays the leading role, undertook the production simply because he wanted to. Lord knows he’s earned the privilege through his breathtaking performances as a classical dancer, first in Russia, then in America, which offered him not just personal freedom but a wide repertory; his exploration of modern and postmodern dance; and his creation of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen to foster the growth of the arts. He owes the world nothing more and deserves the opportunity to do as he pleases.
Playing opposite him, the Russian actress Anna Sinyakina is subtle, attractive, and utterly believable. Together, the pair illustrated how people can be all but destroyed by the loss of home (in all its meanings) and the society that once surrounded them like a second skin.
Alexei Ratmansky provided the choreography. There isn’t much dancing in the show, and at 63, Baryshnikov is no longer even as fleet of foot as he was for years after he relinquished the role of classical ballet’s reigning prince. He is still, however, a compelling presence and a model of intelligence and taste.
© 2012 Tobi Tobias