Theater Review - Ivanov (NY)

Ordinary People with too much time on their hands!


If you want to be transported back to the Russia of 1887 and be completely embraced by the mood and ambiance of the time; if you want to see and feel Austin Pendleton's great directing and quirky acting and Ethan Hawke's passionate tour de force performance; if you want to hear Anton Chekhov's words spoken naturally in Carol Rocamora's lucid translation, then you must try to get tickets to the Classic Stage Company's “Ivanov.”  Artistic Director Bran Kulick and Executive Director Greg Reinerhave been  producing wonderful theater for a long while now, but this seems to have hit the highest notes. It has been extended through December 9th. 


I remember seeing this at Yale, way back in 1990, starring William Hurt, who could not project past the first row! This organic production is clear and powerful. The three hours with one intermission may sound daunting, but like many pieces I saw at the Edinburgh International Festival a number of years ago, you are so caught up in the storytelling and the time just flies by. 


Hawke embodies the depressed Ivanov, a landowner and local government official, with such rage and desperation, it is painful as he appears to want to tear his hair out and climb out of his own skin. Ivanov is often referred to as the Russian Hamlet.   It seems that five years earlier he married Anna, formerly named Sarah, who was Jewish. She converted and was disowned by her parents for their love was all- encompassing.  Now, Ivanov will have nothing to do with her or anyone else for that matter, preferring to go to drink at a club every night.  Willowy, blond  Joely Richardson, in a dark wig, is a strong presence, beseeching her husband to rekindle their early romance, while she is dying of consumption.   


Her doctor, Jonathan Marc Sherman's overly sincere Lvov, hates Ivanov for his conduct, and keeps proclaiming ad nauseum that he is an honorable man. Chekhov, of course, was a doctor and there is one in every one of his plays. Sasha, the joyously beautiful blond Juliet Rylance, is the daughter of Austin Pendleton's henpecked , alcoholic Lebedev and his stingy wife, Zinaida, acted well by  Roberta Maxwell. Sasha makes a play for Ivanov thinking she can change and heal him. Imagine, things have not changed since 1887! This is not to be and the end is not a happy one.


Among the other characters, who are always complaining they are so bored with life, are Shabelsky, a count, the very convincing George Morfogen. Glenn Fitzgerald is an energetic Borkin, who manages Ivanov's estate.  Santo Loquasto's distressed wood and brick set piled with books, lit softly by Keith Parham, Marco Piemontese's linen and silk costumes, which wrinkle with despair, and Ryan Rumery's original music provide a good backdrop for Ivanov; it is the first of Chekhov's many plays that so aptly dissect human behavior.            


Austin Pendleton took over this part from Louis Zorich who was injured during rehearsals. He is really a treasure.   Ivanov” will play at CSC only through Dec 9 unless otherwise indicated.

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