FEED Autumn 2021 Web


story set at the turn of the century about the fading of the old order and the uneasy beginnings of the new – what could be more appropriate for today’s troubled times?

Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard was conceived as a kind of comedy, but the original interpretation by director Konstantin Stanislavski in 1904 presented the play as a tragedy, and most productions since have followed in that vein. But the latest interpretation ran this year in a way Chekhov could never had imagined. Entitled chekhovOS /an experimental game/ , it was produced by Boston’s Arlekin Players Theatre and featured ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov, interacting with his Cherry Orchard characters, as are personalities trapped in his psyche – inside his ‘operating system.’ The production was broadcast online, but the interactive story kicked in before viewers even logged on. Audiences received emails and texts from the play’s protagonists, leading them to a secret video where the characters begged them to “vote the right way” during the show. Arlekin is a theatre company launched a decade ago by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. For most of its existence, Arlekin performed in the Soviet republic languages – Russian, Armenian and others – with productions aimed at Soviet expats.

The troupe then emerged into the English- speaking theatre scene and were an instant, award- winning hit. But right on the tail of that success came the pandemic – and artistic director Igor Golyak had to figure out how to pay the bills. The result was a virtual production, called State vs. Natasha Banina – based on Natasha’s Dream by the Russian playwright Yaroslava Pulinovich – about a 16-year-old orphan who commits a crime of passion. The piece was a monologue delivered over Zoom and was an exercise in experimentation, with the watching audience also becoming the jury who would deliver a verdict on the girl. “I experimented with overlays and put together five or six different pieces of software that are not meant to go together,” explains Golyak, who also

FULLY FOCUSED Igor Golyak (centre) has pulled together a superb piece of theatre



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