Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vicarious Paris

Since I'm not there myself, I'm going to be living vicariously.  I mentioned that several friends from Berkeley will be spending much of the month of September in Paris for various parties, events and incidental excitement.  Their calls and emails are the IV connecting me to what's going on way over there.

Today I had tickets for the Theâtre du Chaillot at Trocadero to see the legendary Mikhael Baryshnikov starring in "In Paris" described in the New York Times review as "a stark, experimental theatrical adaptation of a 1940 short story by Ivan Bunin, the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature... 'In Paris' uses music, song, mime, video and poster-size images of old Paris postcards to create a somber world in black and white."

Apparently the audience had hoped for something else.  Baryshnikov, looking for the bright side, was quoted as saying "They didn’t boo!...Someone told me, ‘They didn’t boo, and if they don’t boo, that’s good.'"

Of the three friends who saw it, two used the always lukewarm descriptor "interesting" while the third called it "creative and interesting".   I have no way of judging the work or the performances myself, but it does raise the question of expectations: if you decide to see a performance because Mikhael Baryshnikov is in it, what do you have the right to expect?  Dance?  From a 64 year old genius?  Not likely to be at the top of his form anymore.  Acting?  From someone whose performance in the last season of Sex and the City was painful?  Even less likely.  Creativity?  Absolutely.  And that seems to be, if the reviews are to be believed, what the audience got.  Not a bad payoff.

Baryshnikov financed a large part of this production himself, claiming it as a labor of love, one that allows a synthesis between his Russian self and his international self, formed of necessity after his defection from Soviet Russia in the early 1970s.  He was in his mid-twenties when he made the decision that changed his life.  It doesn't seem out of order for him to be reviewing that life at this point in it.

I wish I'd seen it, despite the dismal reviews.  And oddly enough, it will be mounted in Berkeley next year, so I might get to see it after all.

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