Opening night for Misha Baryshnikov's production of Dmitry Krymov's In Paris, based on an Ivan Bunin short story, was like a Lubitsch production, intoxicated with beauty, brains and culture. Hearing whispers at the party at Tiato's afterwards, that Baryshnikov in the play was speaking his native tongue for the first time in 40 years, was like hearing that Garbo was laughing "for the first time" in Ninotchka. As they say in Odessa: Where would L.A. be without the Russians?
In Paris is about the loneliness and love that first shyly surrounds and then engulfs an already desolate Russian former officer, an immigrant in Paris in 1930. It is like a film by Chaplin (one of whose films he and his girlfriend see at the cinema), silent at its core despite being full of speech and music. Baryshnikov manages to both submerge himself into and rise above the ensemble's narrative structure. His deft, moody figure mostly hovers over the proceedings; occasionally he breaks into a solo routine, like the flamenco of the bull-fighting, dance with death scene at the very end, flashing horrifically in a cape lined blood-red.
Anna Sinyakina's waitress is a perfect Chaplin heroine, a latter-day Edna Purviance who is finally an equal partner in the relationship and in the skill set. Her final, acrobatic turn lends deathless poignancy to the story. Her waifish charm and beauty touched many hearts. She is an expert collaborator in one of the most effective of the play's many comic touches: The couple's continued attempts to stabilize the table at which they meet, carrying it around with them, balancing it with their legs and feet, reminiscent of an iconic Max Linder film and totally charming.
In the cold reaches of the , it was like being in the experimental Soviet theatrical laboratories in the 1920s, before Stalin, before central heating. It had a hint of the Bulgakov entertainment (Variation #50) Highlands Performance Space presented in 2007, but it also had its own unique take, driven undoubtedly by deeply and seemingly privately-held personal motivations.
Read Laurence Vittes' full review of In Paris on the Huffington Post.
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