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BWW Review: SERYOZHA at Moscow Art Theatre - Everything Was In Astonishment

BWW Review: SERYOZHA at Moscow Art Theatre - Everything Was In Astonishment

Dmitry Krymov has directed a new "Anna Karenina" - and named it by her son's name, "Seryozha". "This is a stage play based on motifs of a great novel, I would even say, on very distant motifs", the director explained his work where most of the Tolstoy's characters are erased, where Anna is transformed into Lyudmila Shaposhnikova from Vasily Grossman's novel "Life and Fate" - and where the feeling of losing a child is clearly similar both in 19th century and during the Great World War.

There will be no ending of "Anna Karenina" itself and therefore no suicide under the train. Throughout the play, Anna instead meets a few other trains: one is Seryozha's toy which starts to uncontrollably move, the other one is a table on wheels - it is being pushed by Karenin (played by Anatoly Bely) to knock Anna down.

Sometimes you will not even hear exact lines from the novel. For example, Anna (played by Maria Smolnikova) begins breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience about her husband's underwear and then stops and says that it was her words she spoke, but she has a Tolstoy's phrase to say. She will then come up to Karenin and pronounce enthusiastically: "Is Seryozha all right?"

BWW Review: SERYOZHA at Moscow Art Theatre - Everything Was In Astonishment

Many scenes with Karenina are based on her conversations with the audience in quite an informal way - in a way your friend or a chatty neighbour would talk like. Of course, it creates comedy. After all, when Anna tries to turn on a fan, accidentally closing the curtains, she tries to calm spectators by asking them not to applaud because this is not the end, how can one not find it amusing?

Moreover, Krymov breaks a lot of "theatrical rules", such as space separation between actors and the audience, darkness during the performance, actors knowing their lines by heart, etc. Here Seryozha plays a ball game with the first rows, lights go on in the middle of Karenina's conversations.

BWW Review: SERYOZHA at Moscow Art Theatre - Everything Was In Astonishment

Seryozha (mostly) is played by a puppet which is being manipulated by three servants and nannies. We see him studying, learning French, and riding a bike. We hear Anna talking about her son, Karenin discussing his future with him (after finding out about Anna's relationship with Vronsky). The little boy doesn't speak a word for the whole 2 hours and 15 minutes but he is essential for a central motif of the play - the motherhood.

Dmitry Krymov's "Seryozha" is a mix of a comedy, horror and tragedy. The stage play is very symbolic and carries a great number of hidden messages, but it will be still fascinating to watch even if one cannot decode everything in it. This is because of the certain feeling and the atmosphere created on stage by the director and actors. "Seryozha" is about the connection of generations in literature: it consists of three texts written in three different centuries. The ending called "40 questions" was written by Lew Rubinstein. Maria Smolnikova is not playing Anna Karenina or Lyudmila Shaposhnikova; she is just reading these questions, that resemble traditional tasks from the literature book, out loud. However, the answer to them is not given - each person who watched the play can respond to them in their own way.

Photo Credit: Ekaterina Tsvetkova

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