Thursday, February 27, 2014

Misha Lands on Stage At Emerson's Cutler Majestic Theater - ArtsEmerson Presents "Man In A Case" Through March 2

Tymberly Canale
Mikhail Baryshnikov

It is often the case that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Sometimes an evening at the theater is much more than the spectacle that is being presented on stage.  Such was the case last night as a full house at Emerson's Cutler Majestic Theater greeted Mikhail Baryshnikov's return to Boston.  The occasion was a performance of "Man In A Case," a pastiche of  two short Chekhov stories dramatized using acting, dancing, singing and video projection.

I always enjoy a well presented Chekhov production, and these two stories are well dramatized, and Misha is well support by a cast enumerated below.  But the real pull of the event was a chance to see a live performance by one of the great artists of the 20th century, and one of the top male dancers in the history of dance.  ArtsEmerson has given a great gift to the theater-going public of Boston by bringing such a great artist to town as one of the Legends they seek to incorporate into each season's schedule.

I first saw Baryshnikov perform live when he danced "Les Sylphides" with the Canadian National Ballet at Lincoln Center.  His leaps and lifts were the stuff of legend.  He no longer has the suppleness and youthful strength to attempt such feats of gravity-defying artistry, but he still moves with amazing grace and purpose.  The dancing that he dd in last evening's performance was low key and elegant.  As his athleticism has waned with the natural aging process, the breadth of his artistic reach has waxed.  He has branched into acting, choreography, producing and collaborating with a variety of other artists.   One such collaboration has been with Mark Morris. There was a point in the first of two two stories when Baryshnikov's character topples down a long flight of stairs.  I wondered if this were staged as a subtle salute to Mark Morris, who along with Yo Yo Ma had created a dance piece set to music by Bach.  The piece is entitled: "Falling Down Stairs"!

Baryshnikov's toned down performance reminded me very much of the grace with which other famous Russian artists have approached continuing to perform despite advancing age.  I am thinking of the husband and wife skating pair,  Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov.  Fifty years ago this month, they won their first of their two Olympic gold medals. Theirs was the first Olympic gold medal in pairs won by the Soviet Union, starting a 42-year streak of Olympic gold by Soviet and Russian couples.

The Protopopovs
The Protopopovs teamed up as a pair in 1956 and married in 1957. In 1979, they defected to Switzerland, where they still live,.  The legendary Baryshnikov has shown the same grace and wisdom as he has aged and yet continued to inspire the next generation of dancers and to delight several generations of audiences.  We were on the edge of our seats, awaiting his every word, gesture, movement.  How delighted we were when he threw in an ad lib. that poked fun at the cold weather in New England.  How ironic that the veteran of Russian winters, famous for his role in "White Nights," should find Boston cold!

At the end of the performance, the great artist returned for repeated curtain calls, along with the other members of the cast.  The audience rose in appreciation.  As I was preparing to leave the theater, I turned to a friend, a very knowledgeable theater critic and said, "That standing ovation was not just for tonight; it felt like a Lifetime Achievement Award."

She replied eloquently: "It is always a thrill to be in the same room with one of the greats."

There will be three more chances this weekend for Boston audiences to be in the same room with one of the truly great artists of our day.  Don't miss this rare opportunity.
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The fourth season of acclaimed international theatre programming by ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage continues with Baryshnikov Production’s MAN IN A CASE, a bridge between our time and that of two brilliant 19th‐century love stories by Anton Chekhov: The Man in a Case and About Love.

Performances take place Feb. 25—March 2, 2014 at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre (219 Tremont Street in Boston’s Theatre District). Tickets, from $25 –$89, are on sale now at or by phone at 617‐824‐8400.

Drawing from material as varied as surveillance footage, folk dance, instructional hunting
videos and interviews with the cast, MAN IN A CASE creates a bridge between our time and
that of two brilliant 19th‐century love stories by Anton Chekhov: The Man in a Case and About
Love. Annie‐B Parson and Paul Lazar, the team behind the internationally acclaimed Big Dance
Theater, bring their signature style—fusing theatre, dance, music and video—to this visionary
adaptation featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Paul Lazar and Tymberly Canale.

About Baryshnikov Productions and Big Dance Theatre
Baryshnikov Productions is designed to bring the distinctive voices of innovative directors,
choreographers and artists to the world’s most respected stages. Founded in 1991, Big Dance
Theater is known for its inspired use of dance, music, text and visual design to expand and
refract literary texts.

Feb 25‐Mar 2, 2014
Adapted from Two Stories by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Annie‐B Parson & Paul Lazar/Big Dance Theater
Choreographed by Annie‐B Parson
Featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tymberly Canale, Chris Giarmo, Paul Lazar and Aaron Mattocks

Friday, Feb.28, 8PM
Saturday, March 1, 8PM
Sunday, March 2, 2PM

Arts Emerson Website

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