Friday, October 03, 2014

Imaginary Beasts Presents "Knock!: The Daniil Kharms Project" Opening Doors of Understanding Into Stalinist USSR

When Stalin was in power in the USSR, a knock on the door could mean that you were being arrested, sent to Siberia or questioned about one of your family members or neighbors.  During this time, Daniil Kharms was writing children's books, a number of which got him into trouble with the ruling Communist Party. Viewed as a subversive threat, Kharms found himself in "harm's way" and was confined to a psychiatric facility where he later died.  He left behind in his former apartment a voluminous collection of notebooks and scattered scraps of paper - plays, poems, sketches, outlines for books.  

In 1941, during World War II, the apartment where Kharms had lived with his second wife was bombed and the home was damaged.  A friend of Kharms, Iakov Druskin, came to the ruined apartment, collected Kharms' notebooks and scraps of paper and kept them safely hidden for decades.  A new translation by Irina Yakubovskaya allowed Imaginary Beasts' Artistic Director, Matthew Woods and Matthew McMahan, to assemble short bits of prose, dramatic vignettes and poems into the patchwork quilt that has its World Premiere as "Knock!"

Befitting the work of a troubled artist writing in a troubled time, the resulting work "Knock!" is presented in a proto-absurdist style, with a talented ensemble playing a troupe of madmen, fools and geniuses in a series of poignant vignettes that demonstrate some of the absurdities of life under the heavy thumb of Joseph Stalin and his apparatchiki.

The resulting works offers much food for thought.  Why did the man in the opening vignette keep breaking his promises not to interrupt the woman attempting to chop some wood with screams of "Knock"?  What did all of the babushkas continue to torment a befuddled man and boil him alive?  Part political commentary, part historical exploration, "Knock" stands as a monument to a writer who was not published in his shortened lifetime, but whose work and message resonates today - long after the Evil Empire that inspired his writings has been "knocked" out of existence.

Boston area theater goers should be grateful for the artistic vision of Imaginary Beasts to dig deep into obscure pockets of creativity for original works like "Knock!"

The gifted ensemble is ably assisted by the costumes of Cotton Talbot-Minkin, Lighting by Christopher Bocchiaro, Sound by Chris Larson and the clever set composed primarily of a series of doors, designed by Matthew Woods and Christopher Bocchiaro.

The cast members and creative team are:

The Ensemble...

Michael Chodos
Sarah Gazdowicz
Molly Kimmerling
Mariagrazia LaFauci
Joey Pelletier
Libby Schap
William Schuller
Noah Simes
Kaitee Tredway
Michael Underhill

Directed by 
Matthew Woods 

Dramaturgy by
Matthew McMahan

Costume Design by 
Cotton Talbot-Minkin

Lighting Design by
Christopher Bocchiaro

Sound Design by
Chris Larson

Set Design by
Christopher Bocchiaro,
Matthew Woods

Technical Director
Nathaniel Punches

Stage Managed by
Deirdre Benson

Carpentry by
Nathaniel Punches,
Candido Soares 

Assistant Stage Manager /
Wardrobe Assistant
Norma Heller

Production Assistance by
Kiki Samko and Michael Underhill

Graphic by Eugene Ivanov / Shutterstock.

The play will run at the Boston Center for the Arts through October 18.



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