Alma and Brutus
Created and Directed by Danil Chashchin
Set Design by Dmitry Gorbas
Meyerhold Center, Moscow
April 4, 2pm
Upon arrival at the Meyerhold Center, we are separated into two groups. We in group “B” are led into a small white room, with two people dressed in black, standing on either side of the room behind a chair. Also as we enter, a short film is playing on the wall: as we hear zither-like music, akin to the soundtrack of The Third Man, we see the world through a dog’s eyes. He bounds and darts through streets, and the world looks like an adventure.
Then the piece begins. The two people, a man and a woman, begin to tell the story of Brutus, a dog who lived in Germany through WWII. Originally owned by a Jewish family, he was commandeered by Nazi soldiers, and taught to be brutal through repeated acts of brutality inflicted upon him. The man and the woman telling this story, primarily speak, stone-faced, to the audience, telling the difficult story of Brutus. It is cold, dark, and happily brief.
We rush out of the harsh, clinical world of Brutus, and are directed into a second room. Though similarly small, its walls are black, and its attendees (again one man and one woman) more welcoming. As we find our seats, they smile at us, patiently waiting for us to get settled. They too tell a story about a dog, named Alma. Though it does not begin with “Once Upon a Time,” it easily could have: it has the simplicity, repetition, and sense of hope that children’s tales often do. The story, about a dog who loves her life but somehow finds herself abandoned and confused in a town later revealed to be Chernobyl, is told with simple theatrical tools. The actors draw eyes and mouths on their hands to represent characters, draw pictures with chalk on the black walls to represent parts of the town and how it changes, release a red balloon into the sky to represent the oddly colored sun. Music is played on a boombox, and practical lights warm the small stage. The story and its telling are much sweeter, more mild, and ultimately have a happier ending: Alma is reunited with humans in the end, and offered a home and a warm bed once again.
Here, it is as if the director sought to separate the angels from the devils: the brutal from the hopeful. The contrast was stark. The performance, though brief and simple, is striking due to this contrast, and stands out to me in my memory more strongly than others I saw at the Golden Mask Festival.
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size and detail: 4 (Including Musicians)
Touring Size: 9
Minimum height/width/depth of stage:
For Alma: 3m, >2m. For Brutus: 4m, >1.5
Load in time: 1 hr
Freight: 8 m3
Duration: 50 minutes
Representation: Yekaterina Alekseeno, +7-916-464-7354,