Even in the early 1980s, the play seemed dangerous.
Photo: Anastasia PLESHAKOVA
Any theater critic will tell you the dramatic story of this “black comedy” production. In the early 1930s, Vsevolod Meyerhold rehearsed The Suicide with Igor Ilyinsky as Podsekalnikov, but the performance did not open. Stanislavsky also rehearsed at the Moscow Art Theater, but was also not allowed to play at the premiere. The unreliable work was then banned for half a century. Well, at least because of Podsekalnikov’s comment: “I ask you not to blame anyone for my death, except the Soviet authorities.”
Even in the early 1980s, the play seemed dangerous. When it was performed at Valentin Pluchek’s Satire Theater it was also banned, although the ban was lifted a few years later. And the public accepted the performance as if they were waiting for it like a spring wind. Eyewitnesses said that the audience laughed incessantly from the first scene, where it was about liver sausages, until the end of the performance.
In our time, this phantasmagorical story runs with more or less success in many theaters. Director Pavel Safonov also took an interest in her and offered to put her on the stage of the Theater. Vakhtangov, where there was no “Suicide” before. So the time has come.
Safonov, by his own admission, was drawn to this work by the clash of human individuality and personal and social society. This is the central theme of the work. “I thought about the words of Podsekalnikov, that he is going to take his own life:“ Man is a cell. And the soul languishes in this cage… But what if the cage is empty? if there is no soul So what? Is there an afterlife or not?” says the director. – This is the main question that torments everyone: “What is it worth spending your life on, what to believe in?” At the end of the work there is an answer: one should not live for the slogans, but to be free”.
Because “Life is beautiful, I read it in the Izvestia newspaper,” says Podsekalnikov in the first act.
In Soviet times, Erdman was banned not only for his bold and witty text, but precisely because of this kind, albeit ironic, attention to the life of a little person who does not want to build socialism, does not want to utter slogans, but wants simple peace. philistine Oh, those liberal values.
In Vakhtangov’s performance, Podsekalnikov is played by Yuri Tsokurov, a very musical artist. At the end he will interpret his trumpet solo, the hymn of life in general and of each one separately.
Nikolai Erdman’s work still rings strong
Photo: Anastasia PLESHAKOVA
And at the beginning… His hero is ashamed of living dependent on his wife, that’s why he wants to end everything. A pistol in the form of a twisted cup of liverwurst testifies that Podsekalnikov’s intentions are not serious. Yes, and against the background of the right hand of the leader of the world proletariat, showing the way to the future. He comically dangled at the back of the stage.
Played by Yuri Tsokurov, Podsekalnikov is a hysterical psychopath who broke all the dishes in his house: cups, saucers, vases… And to his silent protest in the finale and trumpet solo, he still has to train and train.
The neighbors and guests of the Podsekalnikovs, who want to profit from the protagonist’s suicide, are like clowns in a cemetery. Each one acts in his own interest. “He is dying for the sake of the intelligentsia,” insists the “intellectual” Aristarkh Dominikovich Grand-Skubik (Oleg Makarov). He himself is ready to be bold and desperate, but not now: “Time is like this: what a living person can think, only a dead person can say.” Now only the dead are free in their actions and words.
No, no, Podsekalnikov will die solely for love – decides the fam-fatale Cleopatra Maksimovna (Anna Antonova / Asya Domskaya) and her rival Margarita Ivanovna (Alexandra Streltsina).
“Whoever has an idea does not want to die. Those who want to die have no idea”, say other interested characters. Podsekalnikov Kalabushkin’s charming neighbor, played by the wonderful Vasily Simonov, is trying to monetize the death of a comrade. Actors Yuri Kraskov, Evgeny Kosyrev, Dmitry Solomykin endowed their characters with bright colors. In the final scene, they come out with whitewashed faces, reminiscent of the Addams Family cartoon characters. Despite their “sinister”, there is still much more comic in them, even in the scene of the “burial” of the alleged dead.
Pavel Safonov gave a performance about a man who is afraid of death. Well, who is not afraid of a girl with a scythe? He lived a young man and suddenly he’s gone. And why did someone decide for him that it was time to “demote” him?
Nikolai Erdman’s work is still going strong. Both with clues and direct indications of our life, even without Soviet power. In the course of the performance, there is sometimes a feeling that the director is afraid of the sharpness and courage of this Erdman. And he gets up. Although he quotes the text with delight, sometimes, as if waking up, he covers his mouth with the palm of his hand.
“Leave everything to yourself, take all the world conquests, leave me my life and… a decent salary,” Podsekalnikov says at the end, expressing his simple dream. Well, is it a bad wish?
Where: Vakhtangov Theatre.
When: January 30, February 6, 28.
Entrance fee: 900 – 2000 rubles.