Man in a Case
Adapted from Two Stories by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Paul Lazar & Annie-B Parson / Big Dance Theater
Choreographed by Annie-B Parson
Featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tymberly Canale, Chris Giarmo, Paul Lazar, and Aaron Mattocks
Produced by Baryshnikov Productions
In association with ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann
Special Presentation · Roda Theatre
January 25–February 16, 2014
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission
Mikhail Baryshnikov and the creative masterminds behind the Obie Award-winning Big Dance Theater, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, bring us an inviting, innovative take on two of Anton Chekhov’s 1898 short stories, Man in a Case and About Love. Two hunters trade tales both witty and haunting: one about a reclusive man who falls for a cheerful, extroverted woman; the other about a fellow who relives the story of lost love. Garnering rave reviews and featuring Baryshnikov and a stellar ensemble of artists, Man in a Case is a high-tech fusion of theatre, movement, music, and video that illuminates those rare occasions when we’re offered life-changing possibilities.
Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) · Author
Paul Lazar · Adaptor / Co-Director
Annie-B Parson · Adaptor / Co-Director / Choreographer
Peter Ksander · Set Design
Oana Botez · Costume Design
Jennifer Tipton · Lighting Design
Tei Blow · Sound Design
Jeff Larson · Video Design
Keith Skretch · Assistant Video Designer
Chris Giarmo · Music Director
Brendan Regimbal · Production Stage Manager
Aaron Mattocks · Assistant Director
Andreea Mincic · Assistant Set Designer
Valentina Migoulia · Assistant Lighting Designer
Erin Mullin · Assistant Stage Manager
Steven Klems · Assistant Video Designer
Nathan Lemoine · Technical Director
Anthony Luciani · Sound Supervisor
Huong Hoang · General Manager
Katie Ichtertz · Company Manager
Mikhail Baryshnikov · Belikov
Tymberly Canale · Barbara
Chris Giarmo · Ivan
Paul Lazar · Burkin
Aaron Mattocks · Kovalenko
Tei Blow · Additional Onstage Appearance
Jeff Larson · Additional Onstage Appearance
“Baryshnikov shines…Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tymberly Canale light up the stage as smitten and unlucky lovers—with more points of light than one can count—in the luminous Man in a Case that opened Sunday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre. The characters are Chekhov’s. The mesmerizing Big Dance Theater blend of acting, movement, video and music is by adapter-directors Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson. There are so many elements of pure pleasure emanating from the stage that it’s hard to know where to focus one’s eyes or ears. But the heart of these poignant, remarkably uplifting tales of misplaced or thwarted love is in the multifaceted interactions between Canale and Baryshnikov.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A small play with a huge heart…Any tale of love by Anton Chekhov is bound to be a sad tale—put two together and the shapes of sadness multiply. Adapt them for the stage and present them with grace, invention and deep humanity, as Mikhail Baryshnikov and a small company of actor-dancers are doing in Man in a Case, and sadness assumes an unusually compelling allure.”—Huffington Post
“Mikhail Baryshnikov prances away with our hearts yet again in Man in a Case. The greatest dancer of his generation is more of a thespian here than anything else but there is still a world of magic to the quality of his movement. The ballet icon’s lithe presence adds electricity to this whimsical deconstruction of two Anton Chekhov stories, “Man in a Case” and “About Love.” Cheekily adapted by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of the New York-based Big Dance Theater, this delicate 75-minute gem marries the edge of experimental theater with the melancholy of the Chekhovian impulse.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group
Prologue: from the Managing Director
Welcome to Berkeley Rep and our special presentation of Man in a Case. We are delighted to share this extraordinary show with you. This production is the second of four special events scheduled in our 2013–14 season, beginning last fall with the extraordinary talents of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land and concluding with the return of virtuoso pianist Hershey Felder in June with Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.
Between now and June, though, you have many opportunities to experience more terrific theatre here at Berkeley Rep with our four remaining mainstage season productions. We hope you’ll want to see The House that will not Stand, opening in early February. We commissioned this new play from one of America’s most prolific and important young playwrights, Oakland-born Marcus Gardley, and it’s shaping up to be a real treasure. It’s followed by the satirical and outrageous Accidental Death of an Anarchist, probably the most important play by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo. Nina Raine’s Tribes was one of the hot new off-Broadway plays last year. We think this play about a young deaf man finding his way in the world—a play that raises questions about the limits of language, words, and meaning, and that heightens their value—will resonate with Bay Area audiences. Then join us for our final mainstage production in May when Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner and Michael Leibert Artistic Director Tony Taccone team up for The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, an epic tale of love, family, sex, money, and politics.
Berkeley Rep presents stories that we hope will change the way you think about theatre—and the way you think about life. We’re looking forward to these spring shows, and nothing would make us happier than to share them with you.
A conversation with Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar
By Elizabeth Williamson
In this interview with Elizabeth Williamson, the senior dramaturg and director of new play development at Hartford Stage, Annie-B and Paul discuss their approach to the original source material for Man in a Case as well as the unique design elements used in the production.
Elizabeth Williamson: You’ve developed shows from a wide range of sources, from Flaubert, to Agnès Varda, to Euripides. What drew you to these stories of Chekhov’s?
Annie-B Parson: We have been borrowing small bits of text from Chekhov plays for the past 20 years and using them in assemblages, because like most theatre people we’re continually reading Chekhov—he comes up a lot. I’ve choreographed some Chekhov pieces, and Paul’s acted in quite a few [Three Sisters directed by Austin Pendleton, Brace Up! (Three Sisters) by the Wooster Group, and a Russian production of Ivanov], but Big Dance Theater had never done a full Chekhov work. So when Misha [Mikhail Baryshnikov] suggested this, we jumped on it.
Paul Lazar: So we read “Man in a Case” and I just felt that even though it’s prose, not a play, it’s eminently actable—because of the narrative, the sequence of events—an intensely introverted man falls in love with a noisy, extroverted woman, she humiliates him and it kills him—this seemed to be something that could be staged.
When you started developing the show, it was based on one short story, “Man in a Case.” What led you to incorporate “About Love” as well?
Annie-B: A practical matter. It’s one of my favorite things, when someone from the outside imposes a theatrical necessity—it could be spatial, temporal, or thematic—it traps you in a way that can be really generative. In this case “Man in a Case” was too short for a full evening, and I had fantasized about doing “About Love” but couldn’t imagine how to express it. However, when the practical question of needing 15 more minutes to complete the evening came up, I returned to it. Since we’d started working I had a stronger sense of what we as a group could do in relation to Chekhov and I felt confident about adapting it. And I love the contrast between the exteriority of “Man in a Case” and the interiority of “About Love.” Plus, the two stories are actually two parts of a trilogy.
Paul: We’ve also discovered connections between the two characters Misha plays. Even though the character in “Man in a Case” seems so one-of-a-kind and the character in the second story so like other people, they both have preconceived ideas about how to live, even if it means living life in a case. The protagonist of “About Love” is also in a case, because he has a notion of what an honorable life is supposed to be and he won’t defy it when he falls in love. Both he and the woman he loves don’t act on their feelings, which leaves them in a sort of purgatory. Chekhov was critical of both men for living in a case of their own construction.
As Brian Kulick, the artistic director of Classic Stage Company, says, you can distill the wisdom of Chekhov into two words: Live Now.
You often use a range of source material in creating your work. Beyond the stories, are there other sources you drew on to create this show?
Annie-B: Yes, quite a few. We started by looking at instructional videos because Belikov (the “man in a case”) is a lover of rules and prescribed behaviors, and because he’s a teacher. And since the hunters frame the piece, we also borrowed from YouTube clips of contemporary hunters’ everyday talk about hunting. In terms of movement, we drew on folk dance material from the period, and we drew on images of surveillance cameras to reflect Belikov’s paranoia.
Paul: On the first day of rehearsal we also tape-recorded people talking about their backgrounds and origins. We think where a Chekhov story can come out of now is the way people in the contemporary moment talk, so that we could emerge out of that to tell the stories and then return back to that contemporary world—to give some contemporary roots to the piece. Chekhov is forever contemporary.
With Big Dance Theater, you have long-standing relationships with many of the artists involved in each show. How do those relationships develop, and how do they inform the work?
Annie-B: They deeply inform the work. If you’ve had the experience of working with a real ensemble, which I would say is a group who has worked together for at least 7+ years, you’re really lucky because you have a shared vocabulary, a shared aesthetic, and this can be quite a powerful art machine! So many things are left unsaid in rehearsal and then expressed in the work instead of discussed. I even have an idea of a piece that at a certain point actually creates work without the director, once the protocols for the piece are set, because an ensemble is so in tune to the director, she could actually step out. I was reading about how scientists do their best work in a long-standing group and then they add someone new to the group to mess everyone up (in a good way!) and that would be Misha in this piece. We have the stability of an ensemble group of designers and performers, and the added element of a new voice/body in the mix, with his particular history, virtuosity, and perspective.
Your work makes a major use of design. Can you talk about how video functions in the show?
Annie-B: Video design is almost another character in the piece—it contemporizes the material because it is digital; it puts us automatically into the present. For “About Love,” video hones in and heightens the psychological perspective on how the heart loves and protects itself, by looking at the people and the architecture of the room as one, and simultaneously from different perspectives—with cameras above, to the side, at different angles—reminding you of multiple viewpoints, of the twisting and turnings of our thinking, looking at the mind, and the ways we both make decisions and remember. Misha’s character is observing, reliving, and recalling his actions, feeling, defending, and contemplating his actions—as you do when you meditate on something very carefully.
I think Chekhov’s stories are either written from the outside, as in “Man in a Case” which feels like it is about life observed, or from the inside as in “About Love.” “About Love” feels much more personal—it’s one of his stories where he spills a drop of blood. Not that I’m trying to prove it’s biographically based, as many scholars have—but it is palpably something he knows intimately about and had pain around.
Paul: I think the video is very much part of our adaptation of the work. If you were just to take this story and give it to a playwright and ask them to theatrically adapt it, with stage directions, dialogue, etc., that’s one way or style of telling it. I think the way we use video and sound—and some of the video even has text scrolling through it—in a certain sense it’s more evocative of the experience of reading a story. Not in the sense that we speak the text verbatim (which we also do), but that in seeing a play you take some of the language, and the imagery related to the language (sometimes obliquely) so as to replicate the reading experience; it gives you the experience of imagistic resonance rather than literal representation.
In this production you also have designers present, and working, on stage. What led to that choice?
Annie-B: I think it’s about transparency, issues of transparency in theatre, and issues of transparency in Chekhov. Chekhov is brutally honest—which has always been one of my favorite things in his work. By placing the designers and technicians on the stage we are showing the inside of making the piece; we show the seams, the honesty of our theatre, and I find this beautiful and worth exposing. Showing how things work on stage is in part a reflection of Chekhov’s transparency.
Paul: We didn’t do a playwright adaptation, where you’re turning the story into a play, in which case we would want to mask the machinery of the illusion a little more. But it’s Chekhov’s unvarnished contemporary quality and his not feeling at an historical distance that we’re going after. I wanted our world to be present in the piece. I also think that coming from the less-traditional theatre, I’m inclined to ask myself about the purpose of conventions that are just accepted: that we hide the technical elements, and have it be a mysterious magic. I like to ask whether that’s only convention or in fact appropriate to a piece and I didn’t see any reason to adhere to that here. It’s not a convention I particularly like. We often dispense with hiding the machinery and that felt good in this piece.
Reprinted with permission of Hartford Stage
Hear Baryshnikov talk about his theatre background, the show, and his way into the character.
Baryshnikov returns to Berkeley Rep for an innovative and inviting show. Take a look!
Photos by T. Charles Erickson
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Our literary department offers up background on Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anton Chekhov, and Big Dance Theater.
- A concise biography of the man widely considered to be one of the greatest dancers of all time, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and his extraordinary life and achievements.
- Journalist Frank Rizzo interviews Baryshnikov and artistic director of Hartford Stage, Darko Trejsnak, ahead of the opening of the production.
- A brief video about Man in a Case—featuring clips of the show—from NBC Connecticut.
- A book of photographs charting Baryshnikov’s prolific career as a dancer.
Place (2009), dir. Jonas Akerlund
- A dance film created specifically to showcase the talents of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna, choreographed by Mats Ek.
Chekhov: Stories and context
- A link to the collection of short fiction by Anton Chekhov that features both Man in a Case and About Love, the stories that the performance is based upon.
- Featured in The Guardian in 2010 on the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth, writer James Lasdun celebrates the man whose short stories “explore life’s mysteries and mundanity in equal measure.”
Big Dance Theater
- Founded in 1991, Big Dance Theater is known for its inspired use of dance, music, text, and visual design. Led by co-artistic directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, Big Dance has delved into the literary work of such authors as Twain, Tanizaki, Wellman, Euripides, Flaubert, and Chekhov, using dance as both frame and metaphor to theatricalize these writings.
- This series of seven brief interviews from Dance Magazine features choreographers and directors from various companies, including Annie-B Parson from Big Dance Theater (the third interview down), discussing their unique set of dilemmas when combining dance and text.