ReviewStage

Eugene Onegin Brings Russia to the Boston Stage

Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Yuri Shlikov, Olga Lerman and Sergey Makovetsky in Eugene Onegin. Photo Credit: Valeriy Myasnikov.
Yuri Shlikov, Olga Lerman and Sergey Makovetsky in Eugene Onegin. Photo Credit: Valeriy Myasnikov.

There is something about Russian literature that makes so much out of the tiniest moments of life. The talented Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia brings to life every moment of bleak nothingness in an interpretation of Alexander Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin. This production came to America with a prestigious amount of awards and expectations, and it did not fail to disappoint.

A cast of forty-five performers combined their incredible talents of acting, song, and dance to bring to life the story of Eugene Onegin and his connection to the beautiful Tatyana Larina. The story is told by three different Eugenes – one young, one old, and one in the middle-aged (and very much in the throes of passion). A true actors’ piece, this performance showcased the incredible talents of the entire cast, who gave their all in concentrated, extremely physical performances. Although the actors perform entirely in Russian and French, they convey the meaning to the audience with their entire bodies and voices. There are subtitles as well to aid in understanding, which occasionally did distract from the performers, which was unfortunate at times. It did seem as though something may have been lacking in the translation of the lines, but what was unsaid could be seen in the performances of the actors.

Elena Melnikova, Alexei Kuznetsov, Maria Volkova and Vladimir Vdovichenkov in Eugene Onegin. Photo Credit: Valeriy Myasnikov.
Elena Melnikova, Alexei Kuznetsov, Maria Volkova and Vladimir Vdovichenkov in Eugene Onegin. Photo Credit: Valeriy Myasnikov.

These actors truly inhabited the sparse and artful space of the stage. Based on Stanislavsky style of acting, the scenic design appears created to interact with the actors and use the body to tell a story. Simple and suggestive, the actors transformed the same set from a country town in Russia to a caravan through the cold woods, to the rich setting of Moscow. The scenic design incorporated a mirror that subtly moved throughout the show and distorted the set, mirroring the characters’ conflicting emotions. The dance ensemble transformed a plain wooden bar into a pool table, an entry way, and a case for their emotions, among other things.

Often times the audience could feel the cold winds of Russia, as snow blew and stayed on the dark, shiny, angular set. The show also included some wildly breathtaking theatrical moments which helped illustrate the inner hidden messages of the story, often difficult to reach in a Russian novel, but portrayed beautifully on the stage. While the story itself is quite sparse and at times difficult to follow, the performers brought new meanings through their visual metaphors. For example, one such moment involved the female dance ensemble literally chained into flying swings by men as a metaphor for the constraints of married women in 19th century in Russia.

Overall, Eugene Onegin was one of the most gorgeous shows of the year, and truly inspiring to see the dedication of the performers who came from so far away to bring it to us.

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