Legendary performer Mikhail Baryshnikov comes to Berkeley Rep for a special presentation of In Paris.
Photographer: Maria Baranova
Mikhail Baryshnikov at Berkeley Rep Theatre – In Paris
“In Paris” is a performance piece incorporating movement, music, projections, video, text in Russian and French with English supertitles, adapted from a short story by Nobel Prize-winner Ivan Bunin, about a lonely Russian man who meets a lonely young Russian woman. Set in the city of light, Paris, in the 1930s this romantic tale is creatively brought to life by the cast of seven led by legendary dancer and award-winning performer Mikhail Baryshnivov, and director Dmitry Krymov, who also adapted the story. Mikhail Baryshnikov at Berkeley Rep for a special presentation of In Paris.
Photographer: Annie Leibovitz
Krymov is a painter, set designer and director who develops innovative pieces (that are often silent) in Moscow at the Dmitry Krymov Laboratory which play internationally. For sure, Krymov’s Laboratory with young actors, his innovative approach to theatre making together with Baryshnikov’s legendary presence and instinctive acting and movement skills make an interesting collaborative group. The result is fascinating. It’s stripped down production style is a welcome challenge to the imagination and engenders complicity with the audience.
Mikhail Baryshnikov (right) and Anna Sinyakina at Berkeley Rep in presentation of In Paris.
Photographer: Maria Baranova
The transformative set by Maria Tregubova is simple and effective comprising a turntable stage, rigging on view, large cut out images that transport us to Paris and an absurdist looking bar table and chair. The cast interact around and within the set pieces as the revolving scene becomes a Parisian bar, a taxi ride and a wonderful old cinema scene evoked by dim projections of Charlie Chaplin and cigarette smoke (Audio & Video Design by Tei Blow).
Baryshnivov’s Russian man and the Russian woman played by Krymov Laboratory member and film actor Anna Sinyakina meet, converse and flirt – they express themselves at first in the bar with brief, abstract movements and attitudes tilting the bar table and chair beautifully (movement Coach Andrey Schukin and Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky). Krymov’s staging is brilliant given the spare text and dialogue – with surreal imagery such as a “Magritte look” when Baryshnikov stands in shadows with an umbrella.
The story and subtext of sentiment is often told through non-verbal moments such as when she changes clothes for the date and as he shaves himself and prepares. A moment in the narrative that might have been interesting to bring to life was near the end of the date when they were deciding whether to go to his or her place, however, at this point the couple was in shadows and the supertitles covered the stage.
A supporting cast of five from Krymov’s Laboratory play background characters, quietly move set pieces to create the scenes, and help Baryshnikov change clothes onstage as in Japanese theatre. They also sing arias, motets and more to accompany the action and Tei Blow provides a variety of additional music and sound effects that add humor and pathos.
Krymov and his team have created clever effects which are part of the whole in this production, such as the woman’s beautiful long gown transforming to a short dress (costumes by Tregubova), dramatic lighting by Damir Ismagilov – with humor when the spot light following Baryshnikov walking across the stage seems to develop a mind of its own. A chase between Sinyakina and Baryshnikov becomes magical – and transforms as she turns upside down into a pietà-like statue. In response, Baryshnikov transforms his coat into a cape and performs an intensely moving brief matador dance. A wonderful production that sells out fast – see it if you can!
Berkeley Rep Theatre Website: http://www.berkeleyrep.org/
Baryshnikov Arts Center: http://www.bacnyc.org/
Additional Tour Dates/Locations: Spoleto Festival, Italy, June 30-July 1, 2012; Lincoln Center Festival, New York City, August 1-August 5, 2012.
Jo Tomalin Ph.D.