Events unfold according to the laws of a sitcom, where one ridiculous situation is quickly replaced by another, even more ridiculous. Photo: et-cetera.ru
This work is almost a hundred years old. It was first staged by Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1925 with Erast Garin in the title role. That performance is said to have been extremely successful. No wonder: a witty text, where each phrase is a quote, the characters of the characters are easily recognizable caricatures of representatives of different strata of the new Soviet society.
A hundred years have passed, and the “issues of the day”, and the types and parodies of them remain the same. Both recognizable and fun. As before, for the sake of imaginary profit, some especially doubtful chameleon dexterity change their skin color: from white to red, and then vice versa … The merchant Pavel Gulyachkin (artist Grigory Starostin), who was ruined in the revolution, he goes through the difficult path of becoming “a true communist.” All this is done by the advantageous marriage of his sister Barbara, a lame spinster. The trick with the limp is done gracefully on tips by actress Natalia Blagikh. As ridiculous as it sounds, Gulyachkin should become her “living dowry”. The fact is that his enterprising mother agreed to an engagement with the son of an “educated citizen.” But the groom has one condition: there must be a communist in the bride’s family; now it is profitable to marry a party member. Everyone adapts to the “zeitgeist” however they can. And while there is hope that the “old days” will return, but until it does, we must live for today.
In the Gulyachkins’ room, the picture is two-sided: on the one hand – “Sunset in Copenhagen”, on the other – a portrait of Engels or Marx. And they look at life through a hole in the door to orient themselves in time. It all ends with the fact that Gulyachkin writes himself the mandate of a “communist party.” But for now, the point is…
Events unfold according to the laws of a sitcom, where one ridiculous situation is quickly replaced by another, even more ridiculous. To strengthen the “reputation” of the bride, the Gulyachkins need to find “relatives” from the working class. At this time, the lady of the “old” brings them into her custody the resplendent dress of the empress like a feather of the Firebird. The cook Nastya (actress Ekaterina Egorova / Marina Churakova), a lover of tabloid novels, dresses up in it. Her dress fit like a glove. Consequently, Nastya is mistaken for the daughter of Nicholas II, Grand Duchess Anastasia. There is no better illustration for Lenin’s phrase about the cook and the state. And now it is not Varvara, but Nastya – the desired bride.
Director Vladimir Pankov calls his performances “sound dramas”, where live music, a bright-sounding word, plasticity and a well-coordinated ensemble of actors are on the stage. Mixing theatrical genres is always spectacular. But a lot is required of artists: singing, theater, dance mobilization. We must pay tribute to the troupe “Et Cetera” – they did not disappoint, the troupe coped with a difficult task to the delight of its artistic director San Sanych (Kalyagin). And when Natalya Blagikh sang with a hoarse jazz, and then in a sonorous voice “Moscow is falling asleep”, she immediately sang the artist of all the people of Russia (and this title is absolutely correct).
Choreographer Ekaterina Kislova staged plastic parodies: from the breaking of the flower bed to the dying swan. Ten musicians from the Sounddrama studio play various instruments – from cello to trombone, from Soviet songs to waltz and Charleston – and focus on important dramatic moments with a separate sound. The external eccentricity is complemented by the clown makeup of the characters: bleached faces, eyebrows, house, false noses. Production designer Maxim Obrezkov proposed an interesting solution. He built a gray, faceless, multi-apartment, ceiling-high communal apartment on the stage, against the background of which the red stairs of the constructivist transformer stand out with a bright touch. In the new play “Et Cetera” not only Erdman’s satire sounds loud, but also vaudeville tricks, buffoonery, cabaret revue elements, parody (some characters clearly speak in the voice of Renata Litvinova, and this is in a way a cliche). Despite the fact that “the greatest artistic value of comedy is its text. The features of the characters are closely fused with the style of the language,” Vsevolod Meyerhold wrote about Mandate, comparing Nikolai Erdman with another Nikolai – Gogol.
It is possible that the value of the stage word in such polyphony and with such external effects is somewhat diminished, or even completely dulled by the ululation of the trombone and the sob of the cello, not to mention the trumpet and percussion. But after all, not only satire is interesting to the audience, but also the energy, drive of artists and musicians, their involvement in different genres and an attempt to tell a story in a new way about how ordinary people, frightened by the changes, she does. I don’t understand where they should swim, to which shore. How to sit on “two chairs” in an era of change is a timeless topic. The flexibility of the body, which surprises all the characters in this comedy (and the actors involved in it), allows you to maneuver and pass between the trickles.