Review by David Cote. St. Ann’s Warehouse. Conceived and directed by Dmitry Krymov. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
In 2007, while visiting Moscow, I caught two plays directed by designer-turned-auteur Dmitry Krymov: The Demon (The View from Above) and Cow. After returning to the States, I was talking to an elder theater critic, and began effusively describing this painterly new stagecraft I had witnessed. “Just stop there,” he said with a wan smirk and a wave of the hand. “It sounds like the kind of thing I’ve seen many times before.” My colleague was, of course, being a jaded twit—you do not see work as original or stirring as Krymov’s every season—but I also blame myself. The work is so attuned to the eye, it’s hard to describe in words.
So let me try to lay out the basic components of Opus No. 7, a starkly beautiful and terrifying performance-cum-art-project that St. Ann’s Warehouse has imported for a brief run. For the first half, Genealogy, the space is demarcated by cardboard walls and a paper floor. Knives cut through the surface, forming square holes, out of which pop arms and legs. Soon the ensemble (young actors and designers who devise each piece with Krymov) grabs buckets of black paint and empties them against the walls, adding semicircles of paper and cotton wisps to create 2-D figures: Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century. Suddenly, the space is buffeted by a blizzard of cut-up newsprint. It’s an impressionistic evocation of anti-Semitic genocide, from the Holocaust to Stalin.
After intermission, Krymov turns his attention to the tortured life and career of Dmitry Shostakovich, who thrived in the Soviet system under constant fear of death. Music from his harrowing Piano Trio No. 2 (partly inspired by Nazi atrocities) underscores a series of surreal, grotesque tableaux, including a huge Mother Russia puppet that alternately cuddles and fires a pistol at the composer. Opus No. 7 drags a bit toward the end, but its ghostly images linger even longer.—David Cote
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