REVIEW: Chocolate promises and shattered dreams as Arlekin Players turn over a bizarre ‘Stone’

It is a show unlike anything the Sleepless Critic has ever seen before.  Arlekin Players is currently celebrating their 10th anniversary season as they present Marius von Mayenburg’s avant-garde production, ‘The Stone‘ (remount in English) through Sunday, September 29 in Needham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.    Click here for an interview done last year with director Igor Golyak.

Directed by Igor Golyak, ‘The Stone’ explores the history of a German house before and beyond World War II and its various owners which includes a Jewish family and their ancestors.  Quite a few revelations and family secrets are revealed through traumas and triumphs inside this haunting structure.

Arlekin Plays 'The Stone' with Viktoriya Kovalenko, Rimma Gluzman and Olga Sokolova

Viktoriya Kovalenko, Rimma Gluzman and Olga Sokolova in Arlekin Players ‘The Stone’ Photo courtesy of Irina Danilova/Arlekin Players

The Arlekin Players stage is an overwhelming experience told in the theatre round without a bad seat.  With vintage lighting by Jeff Adelberg,  ‘The Stone’ features very few props and unconventionally arranged set pieces which includes a partially buried piano, a vintage chandelier, and a chair hanging upside down from the ceiling.  As characters emerge and exit almost supernaturally from the floor in head-to toe-white with black paint splotches staining their pants, it quickly became clear that this would not be an orthodox production.

Arlekin Players 'The Stone'

Photo courtesy of Irina Danilova/Arlekin Players

With wild white hair, a pair of navigators called the conductors, portrayed with bizarre humor by Jenya Brodskaia and Misha Tyutyunik, are seemingly mad scientists that conduct and calculate time travel.  They take the audience through the history of the house before and beyond World War II, one of the most tumultuous times in history.  The time travel is a raging, jarring experience with special effects that may have been effective the first couple of times, but starts to distract from the tale as the show moves along.

The characters march strangely and unnaturally, sometimes under a plastic umbrella, an urgent tale with segments between the characters so brief, it is difficult to develop an attachment to them.  The cast is stoic for the most part, especially from Mieze, portrayed with a guarded, calculating air by Rimma Gluzman.  When Viktoriya Kovalenko as idealistic Heidrun discovers a small box in the house that she believes was her father’s, portrayed with complexity by David Gamarnik as Wolfgang, the moment Heidrun has with her mother Witha, portrayed by Darya Denisova, provides a touching moment in the production.

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I’m sure there is an audience for experimental theatre and the actual tale is powerful, but too unconventional and at times confusing for my taste.  It chooses to be different and complex when the story can be told in a straightforward way.  It is still art and it’s unforgettable.

Arlekin Players presents ‘The Stone’ through Sunday, September 29 at  368 Hillside Ave in Needham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and here for more information on the Igor Golyak Acting Studio.

Director Igor Golyak discusses the shocking and comical show, ‘Dead Man’s Diary: A Theatrical Novel’

Taking a rich, multidimensional look at love and the theatre, the Arlekin Players proudly presents Mikhail Bulgakov’s Dead Man’s Diary: A Theatrical Novel for two weekends from Saturday, March 17 through Sunday, April 1 at Paramount Center in Boston, Massachusetts.  Shocking and comical, Dead Man’s Diary:  A Theatrical Novel is written in Russian and performed by Russian actors with English audio translation, but was created in Needham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Igor Golyak

Director Igor Golyak of ‘Dead Man’s Diary’ Photo courtesy of Igor Golyak Acting Studio

Dead Man’s Diary’s director and head of Igor Golyak Acting Studio, Igor Golyak, discusses this shocking and comical show’s fascinating background, developing the show’s unique style, and what it means to be successful.

Sleepless Critic:  What is it about this show that made you decide to take on this piece?

Igor Golyak:  I fell in love with the novel, a prose piece by Mikhail Bulgakov, which was not published until after his death as it was considered offensive to Stanislavsky and the Moscow Art Theatre. I wanted to adapt this unfinished novel for the stage because I saw it not only as satire on theatre, but as a vow of love to the theatre. Through this production, we wanted to express the conflicts and illusions around realizing oneself in the theatre through Bulgakov life’s work.

Arlekin Players Dead Mans Diary

‘Dead Man’s Diary: A Theatrical Novel’ Photo courtesy of the Arlekin Players

SC:  Arlekin Players is behind this production and they studied under the Igor Golyak Acting Studio.  Please tell me about your studio and teaching philosophy.  How can people join the Arlekin Players?

IG:  Right now, I mostly cast my students because we develop our own theatre vocabulary during the training period. This takes some time. It is a big advantage as I know the capabilities of the actors and how to challenge them. What’s most important in the theatre is the atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation in the training and rehearsal process.  I aim to create this with the approach I take.  People can join the company by applying, coming to rehearsals, and possibly doing some scenes with company members.  Ultimately, if we mutually agree that the relationship can move forward, they join the company.  We have a family-type atmosphere in our theatre just like in life.  People get to know each other and some join the family.

SC:  This diary is written by a scorned lover.  How would you describe how the show depicts love or the lack thereof?

IG:  I am not sure if there is a better way to express the love for the theatre than through Bulgakov’s words.

The main character, Maksudov says:

‘I returned to the theater which had now become as necessary to me as morphine to an addict.” and “But more important was my love for the Independent Theatre; I was now pinned to it like a beetle to a piece of cork…’  

SC:  The show offers a new perspective on theatre and is at times shocking.  It also can be a bit haunting and bleak.  How did you develop the style of this show?

IG:  Each style of theatre for me is born out of the text, and the world of the author.

The main character says:

‘I started noticing that something colorful was emerging from the white pages.

The vision was not just a flat picture, but something three-dimensional.  As if peering into a little box, I could see the light gleaming and the figures from my novel moving about. Oh, what a fascinating game it was to observe these characters moving about the little room.’

Using this text, we decided to create a box that all the characters live in, and with them, Maksudov, the main character. What kind of box should it be?  Since the play depicts the Moscow Art Theatre in the 1920s, we decided that the shape of the walls of this box should depict the famous portrait foyer of the Moscow Art Theatre with portraits of the great artists of the time constantly staring at the author and characters inside the box.  We then decided that the audience members should portray these portraits, and thus, we have the audience seated around the box, in which characters come alive.  They are looking though their individual windows or portraits as if in a foyer of the legendary theatre.  Maksudov therefore, is forever stuck like Prometheus in the ‘magical box’ or the ‘portrait foyer’ that he loves more than anything in the world.

Arlekin Players Dead Man's Diary cast

A scene from Dead Man’s Diary: A Theatrical Novel Photo courtesy of Arlekin Players

SC:  This show also features its share of absurd comedy as well.

IG:  Correct.  In Maksudov’s eyes, the actors in the theatre hire him to write a play are from a different, exotic, and fascinating world.  It’s as if they are superhuman. The absurdity comes from the heightened level of passion of the characters and their incredible self-delusions, which at times are absurdly vulnerable and poetic, and at times absurdly cruel and self-absorbed. We recognize the faults of the human soul looking through Maskudov’s eyes as if though a looking glass, where the faults become exaggerated and ultimately comical.

SC:  It describes not only theatre, but the writer’s journey and touches upon what it really means to be successful.  What are your views on success?

IG:  My view of success is having a group of artists, a team of sorts, which is united and inspired by each other to produce a specific piece of text.  As a result, they are able to touch the souls of people in the audience.  When this happens, I feel truly successful.

SC:  What do you like most about this show and what is the best reason someone should attend?

IG:  I think the acting, directing, set design, music composition, and collaborative imagination all work together to give this piece an unusual style. We are excited to bring what we believe is a unique contribution to the Boston Theatre Scene. Also, the piece was written in Russian and is performed by Russian actors but was adapted and created here. We are a local company making new work for the last 9 years. We have already had 20 performances of Dead Man’s Diary. For those who have seen and loved it, it has grown even more over time.  See the show and you will not leave untouched.

Click here for more information and for tickets to Dead Man’s Diary: A Theatrical Novel from Saturday, March 17 through Sunday, April 1 at the Paramount Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.  Follow the Arlekin Players on Facebook and Twitter.