Dmitry Krymov began his career as a set designer for his father, Anatoly Efros, among other leading directors in the '70s and '80s, and, disenchanted, abandoned theater to become a painter. After his father died, he returned to the theater in 2002, and has since developed a reputation as "one of the most original directorial voices of this new century" (American Theater). Soon after, he formed his design-centered theater company, the Dmitry Krymov Lab.
St. Ann's Warehouse presents the American Premiere of Opus No. 7, a visually explosive, non-narrative spectacle that exemplifies Krymov's "theater of painters" and provides what Feldman calls "a perfect introduction to contemporary Russian theater." With larger-than-life puppets, a multi-genre original score performed live-on-stage, eight cacophonous "dancing" pianos, musicians who become actors, actors who become acrobats, and a "living" wall that erupts with imagery, the two one-acts comprising Opus No. 7 pay tribute to victims of totalitarianism: Soviet Jewish life destroyed by the Nazis, and artists censored under Stalin. Together, the two parts comprise a moving meditation on human creation and destruction.
Opus No. 7 will run for just eight performances at the new St. Ann's Warehouse (29 Jay Street) January 9–19, 2013. Critics are welcome as of the January 12 performance for an official opening on January 13.
Part One, Genealogy, which features scenic design by Vera Martynova and original live music by Georgia-born composer Alexander Bakshi, is a lush visual and musical requiem for the Jews of Eastern Europe. Inspired by historical photos and old family albums and letters, the Krymov Lab has created a loving tribute to "those who came before." (Krymov). Ultimately universal and non-didactic, the work more broadly represents a history of oppressions throughout Russian history.
The main element is a huge, stark, blank wall through which all the images are created-revealed, projected, drawn and animated-by the performers. Part puppetry and part painting, the set is as much an actor in the drama as the performers-a living blank canvas from which all life springs in stunning, provocative, funny, moving tableaux, projections, scenes and moments. Bakshi's score supports Krymov's direction, drawing upon traditional Jewish song, American gospel, oratorio and contemporary classical styles. It all adds up to a surprising, deeply affecting, at times humorous, memorial.
The cast of Genealogy includes Anna Sinyakina, Maxim Maminov, Mikhail Umanets, Maria Gulik, Natalia Gorchakova, Arkady Kirichenko and Varvara Voetskova. The work features scenic movement by Andrew Schyukin, video by Alexander Shaposhnikov and Svyatoslav Zaytsev, and costumes by Irina Bakulina and Victoria Solovyeva.
In Part Two of Opus No. 7, following a reconfiguration of the theater during intermission, Krymov wreaks havoc on the life of composer Dmitry Shostakovich. Employing scenic design by Maria Tregubova and recorded music by the composer and his contemporaries, Krymov goes all out in Shostakovich, using scale, acrobatics, sound, spinning pianos, puppetry and design to capture life for artists under Stalin's reign. Objects become animate, and elements like fire are unleashed to ransack the great composer's life and work.
Inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Krymov's protagonist, inhabited by the diminutive Anna Sinyakina, is a multi-faceted genius, clown, collaborator, victim-both nurtured and cowered by Mother Russia, which is animated by a 17-foot high behemoth puppet that is by turns a loving "bubby" and a menace. The puppet, like the State equally rewarding and threatening, is capable of transforming with the change of a hat.
What emerges is a virtuosic, hijinx, heart-breaking journey of the Soviet–era composer. Shostakovich transforms from an innocent who is endlessly fascinated by music and sound of all kinds, to a survivor who is tragically diminished under the brutal compromises imposed by a totalitarian state.
By the end, the composer, whose many fellow artists and friends have been killed, survives as a tiny puppet once again at the bosom of the bubby.
In addition to Sinyakina, the cast of Shostakovich includes Maxim Maminov, Mikhail Umanets, Sergey Melkonyan, Natalia Gorchakova, Maria Gulik and Varvara Voetskova.