All images by Timur Abasov
A Month in the Country
By Ivan Turgenev. Directed by Boris Milgram
What I Saw
The second-day matinee was dedicated to the traditional Russian classics. A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY by Ivan Turgenev, directed by Boris Milgram, combines elements of both psychological and “playful” theaters – the latter one is often referred to as Yevgeny Vakhtangov’s tradition, where actors are completely aware of the audience’s presence, and switch easily between “in” and “out-of-character” modes.
Milgram gracefully maneuvers between these two kinds of theater: first actors talk friendly to the spectators ignoring the fact the show started; then they begin the play, but almost reading it from the book; yet, step by step, the script takes over their attention, and they deepen into its twists and turns, now inviting the audience to suspend disbelief. I enjoyed this approach – the play, when directed with excessive seriousness, often ends up feeling pretentious and boring; I believe Turgenev writes quite a melodrama, and his attitude to characters and their dramas is often full of irony and even scorn.
The mostly white set, with the isolated flower conservatory located upstage, creates a feeling of the cleansed, airless space, of a place where coddled and spoiled grown-up children are playing loves and lives of the others. One, depending on the mood or preference, could read this as either feminist or sexist production: the two competing female characters are in full control of the men of the play, and manipulate them with enthusiastic professionalism.