February 7th, 2014

piranha - the phantom of the circus.

Notes on Berkeley Rep's "Man in a Case"

Tonight, Jeans and I meant to see "Man in a Case", a play based on two Anton Chekhov short stories starring Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Unfortunately, a slow start combined with bad traffic means we were about twenty minutes late, and when the entire show is only seventy-five minutes, that's a pretty hefty chunk of set-up and story to miss.  By the time we were positioned in late seating - a pair of bar stools pushed against the back wall of the theater - we were too hopelessly behind to catch up.

Berkeley Rep describes the play thus:
Mikhail Baryshnikov and the creative masterminds behind the Obie Award-winning Big Dance Theater, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, bring us an inviting, innovative take on two of Anton Chekhov’s 1898 short stories, Man in a Case and About Love. Two hunters trade tales both witty and haunting: one about a reclusive man who falls for a cheerful, extroverted woman; the other about a fellow who relives the story of lost love. Garnering rave reviews and featuring Baryshnikov and a stellar ensemble of artists, Man in a Case is a high-tech fusion of theatre, movement, music, and video that illuminates those rare occasions when we’re offered life-changing possibilities.

Every movement was carefully choreographed and highly stylized; this was less a play than a work of performance art.  The story isn't acted so much as pantomimed and narrated, with an intentional distance and stiffness.  Some people might find this artsy and engaging, but I don't.  So my mind tended to wander, especially since I had no idea what was going on most of the time.

Also, I knew that Baryshnikov wasn't about to do flying leaps across the stage - the man's in his 60s by now! - but I do wish I could have seen him dance a little.  There were enough hints in his movements - tightly controlled in his first role as Belikov, more graceful as the lover Alekhin - to make me think that if he wanted to, he could have.  Oh well.

Final random note: Baryshnikov is tiny.