Friday, April 5, 2013

Nikolai and the Others - First Review

by Richard Nelson
directed by David Cromer
originally produced at Lincoln Center Theater, New York, NY.
April 4, 2013 through June 6, 2013

About the Premiere Production:

It is 1948 and over the course of an early-spring weekend in Westport, Connecticut, a close-knit group of Russian émigrés, including choreographer George Balanchine, composer Igor Stravinsky, conductor Serge Koussevitsky, set designer Sergey Sudeikin, and composer Nikolai Nabokov, gather to eat, drink, talk, and make art. In Nikolai and the Others, playwright Richard Nelson reimagines the genesis of Balanchine and Stravinsky’s historic collaboration, the ballet Orpheus, which led directly to the creation of the New York City Ballet. Illuminating the precarious convergence of culture and politics, Nelson sheds light on the U.S. government’s surreptitious arts funding at the outset of the Cold War. Directed by David Cromer, Nikolai and the Others has been scheduled for a 10½-week run (April 4–June 16, 2013) in the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The production will be designed by Marsha Ginsberg (sets), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Ken Billington (lighting), and Daniel Kluger (sound). New York City Ballet's Rosemary Dunleavy will recreate Balanchine’s Orpheus choreography to Stravinsky’s piano score (pending rights permission). Commissioned by LCT with support from Ellen and Howard Katz.


Reviews at (don't read, when you don't want to get spoilered):

WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel:
I was at the first preview tonight and it was very frustrating. I think there's an awesome idea for a play here, but after 3 hours tonight Richard Nelson hasn't quite found it yet.
The play takes place during a Russian weekend in the country in Westport Connecticut. A cavalcade of historical figures descend on the cottage including Nicholas Nabokov, Igor Stravinsky, George Balanchine and his two lead dancers Maria Tallchief and Nicholas Magallanes. I thought this would be right up my alley, but the script meanders through the weekend without much forward motion.
There is an author's note in the playbill that states the people are real, but the situation is not. Facts and figures have been altered for dramatic purposes. The trouble is nothing all that dramatic happens!
Here's something else Nelson writes in his note:
Or to put this another way, my hope is to show a world where the creating of art- in this case dance- lives side by side, cheek by jowl, with all other essential and necessary functions of life; such as eating, drinking, dying, sleeping, dreaming, making love, laughing, remembering, disappointing, and attempting to be generous.
Well this is all very interesting in theory, but Nelson doesn't achieve what Baker (contestedly) achieved with The Flick; watching the mundane doesn't excite and the actors are left at sea treading water to keep afloat.
The scene at the end of act one was the best scene. Everyone gathered to watch Stravinsky and Balanchine choreograph Orpheus, and the two dancers perform it beautifully. It turns out the creation of art IS the most interesting to dramatize.
The staging is problematic because some of the sightlines will be bad. I felt like I was sitting in the perfect section, but other people, especially on the far left, did not have it so lucky.
I think there will be a lot of trimming in the weeks to come, so if you have an interest I would suggest holding off until changes are made.
The actors are all good; what a finely assembled group this is! Unfortunately the play is overstuffed with characters and I felt like we never got to know any of them except for Nabokov (Kunken).
The costumes and wigs are excellent.

The opening scene setting a table awaiting for another guest, took way too long. Michael Cerveris was on stage almost with nothing nothing to really say, although he looked great as Balanchine. Blair Brown seemed ill matched with John Glover as his mistress, who became his wife, but with almost no chemistry between them.. John Procaccino had the most moving moments, but at almost 2 &1/2 hours in, it was like watching Chekov under glass. Or under water.
Stephen Kunken as the title character seemed fine, but at times too whiney and self indulgent as a chracter rather than a really moving outsider who wants to be in.
Haviland Morris, Best Aidem, Katie Erbe all very good, but a lot of book reporting with other than being concerned about serving food and monitoring the elderly Alvin Epstein in the show.
Needs a good 1/3 to be cut.

See here the full schedule table and ticket prices.

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