Tuesday, June 23, 2015
ArtsEmerson Continues To Delight by Offering The World On Stage - "Smile At Us, Oh Lord" by the Vakhtangov Theater of Russia
One of the continuing delights of any Boston theater season is the assurance that ArtsEmerson will bring to town talent and shows from around the world that are of superior quality. That trend continued recently when ArtsEmerson collaborated with The Cherry Orchard Festival in New York City to bring the Vakhtangov Theater of Russia production of "Smile At Us, Oh Lord." The play is an adaptation of the novel "A Kid for Two Farthings" by Lithuanian author Grigory Kanovich.
This current production, directed by Rimas Tuminas, is a dreamlike and deeply moving account of a quartet of four men who set out from their shtetl in Lithuania to try to get to Vilnius before the son of Ephraim Dudak, the stone cutter, is executed or exiled for having attempted to assassinate the tsar's Governor General. Their journey is seen as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and symbolic episodes speak of the history of the Jewish people in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The set by Adomas Jacovskis is wonderfully designed to speak of both strength and poverty.There are numerous visual images that stand out, chief among them is the specter of a she-goat, played with grace by Yulia Rutberg, hovering over the first few moments of the play, appearing almost as a guardian angel hanging from the door post. She descends and has a presence that reminded me of Pan. An attack by wolves during the journey can be interpreted as a reference to the frequent pogroms suffered by European Jews at this point in history.
Sergei Makovetskiy and Vladimir Simonov alternated the role of Ephaim Dudak. Aleksei Guskov and Evgeny Knyazev alternated the role of Shmule-Sender Lazarek. Viktor Sukhorukov played Avner Rosenthal and Pavel Popov played "The Palestinian" They were supported by a brilliant ensemble.
At the end of the story, Ephraim fails to connect with his son. The final moments are meant to foreshadow the ominous events the European Jews would experience as they entered the 20th century and encountered the Holocaust to come.
If you missed seeing this play, which was enthusiastically received by an audience that was composed of many Boston Russian ex-patriots, plan now for future events of this caliber. See the link below for highlights of the ArtsEmerson 2015-206 season, which promises to be a strong one.