By: Sandi Durell
In 1948, in a farm house in the woods in Westport, Ct., a group of Russian émigrés are gathered to make and celebrate art. Richard Nelson’s latest entry at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, has taken artistic liberties (as he readily admits) when some of the most respected artistic Russians come to celebrate the name day of one of there own – Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein), an aging set designer, as well as witness George Balanchine (a subtle Michael Cerveris) and Igor Stravinsky’s (a blustery John Glover) new ballet, Orpheus.
- The opening set is delightfully presented (to the credit of Marsha Ginsberg) in the backyard as we peek-a-boo into the interior, which eventually turns into the interior in Act II.
The women are busily dragging tables, chairs, dishes and food (as the men watch) in preparation for Sudeikin’s arrival. The conversation is bland, ordinary day to day as it becomes clear that Chekhov has had a strong influence on Mr. Nelson’s writing. They speak longingly about their homeland but the one thing all these Russians have in common is trying to fit in as Americans at a time during the Cold War when America was suspicious of communists in their midst. They are all fearful, realizing what is at stake, politically and culturally.
The mixture of characters is impressive including, not only the friends, but the wives, ex-wives, conductor, film & stage actor Valdimir Sokoloff (Haviland Morris), dancers and one Russian speaking American.
Blair Brown is unquestionably and visibly moving as the now current wife of Igor, Vera Stravinsky, and the ex- wife of Sudeikin. Nikolai “Nicky” Nabokov (an increasingly frustrated Stephen Kunken), a one-time composer with a longing to return to his heart’s fulfillment, is instead working in the US Government. In his position, he is able to do many favors for his Russian friends for which they come to him ongoing. He was married to Natasha (Kathryn Erbe), a close confidant of Balanchine, who is now engaged to Karpov (Anthony Cochrane), a piano teacher.
There’s a lot of moving of furniture both at the house and in the barn where we witness Balanchine and Stravinsky’s dancers in rehearsal – Balanchine’s latest wife Maria Tallchief (Natalia Alonso) and her partner a beautiful American boy Nicholas Magallanes (Michael Rosen).
When Maestro Koussevitsky (Dale Place) arrives with the American, a CIA government man, Chip Bohlen (Gareth Saxe), suspicion reigns as friendships are tested.
The beautiful dance segment in the barn is a wonderful interlude, the Chekhov references duly noted throughout and if you’re a fan of history (albeit this one someone distorted), the two act, 2 ½ hours won’t seem so long. The cast totals 18.
The piece is regally directed by David Cromer, with costumes by Jane Greenwood and lighting by Ken Billington and runs thru June 16th. 212 239-6200 telecharge.com