It is sometimes something of a relief that there are still theaters which, because of their status and the once-and-for-all nature of their repertoire, are incapable of dumbfounding or shocking. Surprising, yes; but this is a surprise that is calm and more rational than emotional. The Maly Theater has been the leader in this field for a long time. In their most recent premiere Vitaly Solomon's "Ivanov" by Anton Chekhov, in which the director himself plays the leading role they have, of course, remained true to themselves.
In the first place, it is surprising that, considering all his characteristic narcissism, not only has Solomon not projected the figure of Ivanov into the center of the production and singled it out among all the others, but also that he has made the hero a suffering intellectual who does not know why he is tormented. Solomon's Ivanov is a weary, melancholy and nervous man, striving to achieve only one thing in life: peace and quiet. He wants to live regardless of others, to think and act in a way that suits his character which is what he actually does, although it brings him no happiness. On the contrary, the people around him, agitated and made indignant by his uniqueness in contrast to everyone else, try with all their might to correct and refashion him, urge him to do something and make him act in one way and not in another. Moreover, they do it unconsciously, with the very best of intentions.
Really nobody, neither the radiant Misha (Alexander Klyukvin) nor the dazzling Sara (Lyudmila Titova), nor the aesthete Shabelsky (Yury Kayurov), wants to hurt Ivanov. The only one to consciously seek confrontation is Doctor Lvov (Vasily Bochkaryov), a man who is passionate and straightforward to the point of effrontery. But he has his reasons apart from high-principled ideas that interest nobody that are directly connected with his love for Sara. It makes the doctor a complete scoundrel. Nevertheless, he is an exception. The others are not so selfish.
However, everyone knows where the road that is strewn with good intentions will lead, and Ivanov's death in all its absurdity seems quite logical. Under the influence of those around him, he hates his life and himself, and so there is no alternative exit.
Solomon has staged a production about the tragedy of fortuitousness: The thoughtless action or word that can lead to sad consequences. Intelligible in its thinking and high-quality in both its acting and direction, the Maly Theater's production in terms of today's attitudes is unusually important in human terms even though there are moments when a mathematical approach to ideas and thinking appears somewhat cold and calculated. But then this is no great sin.
The next performance is Oct. 18.
1/6 Teatralnaya Ploshchad.