American dramatist Thornton Wilder is well-known in Russia, in the first instance, for his play "Our Town," for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. His other plays, though, have seldom been staged in this country. It is an omission that the Oleg Tabakov Theater Studio decided to remedy, with the result that the young director, Mindaugas Karbauskis, one of Pyotr Fomenko's pupils, set about staging "The Long Christmas Dinner."
The play traces the lives of several generations in the Bayard family a very ordinary bunch of people who live in a small town. Their hum-drum existence is focused on the main annual ritual the Christmas dinner with its obligatory roast turkey and red wine served on a blindingly white tablecloth. Whatever else happens in the Bayard family, you can be sure of one thing: On that particular day all the generations will gather around the table. The mother (Marina Salakova) will say how good the church service was and the daughter (Marianna Shultz) will note that the branches of the trees are covered in hoar frost. And then everyone will drink to the others' future.
The cyclical life process is endless and repetitive and, as if to underline the inevitability of aging, the director came up with the idea of giving the actors the role of a single character who changes with age. Young people therefore appear on stage through one door and then, in leaving to die, disappear through another.
In the finale, there will be yet another dinner, but no longer a family one. Sitting at the table there will be the aging cousin Ermengarda (Nadezhda Timokhina) and, from her words, it will be clear the future life of the family will be taking place beyond the walls of the home. The house has already outlived its time.
Karbauskis has staged a sad even sentimental and very lucid play, having accurately maintained its atmosphere as well as adding a little coldness. It is his first production on a professional stage and, in addition, a small one. All in all, it is a difficult exam for someone qualifying for professional suitability, but one which Karbauskis has passed with flying colors.
The next performance is on Nov. 9.
Oleg Tabakov's Theater Studio.
1A Ul. Chapligina.
Metro: Chistye Prudy.