June 2nd, 2012 | Published in News
There was something that clicked into focus for me yesterday when we juxtaposed Masha’s description of her childhood apartment with images from Pripyat, specifically a photograph taken from inside a dilapidated room, looking out the window at the abandoned ferris wheel.
Something about the collision of description and image worked well to create a confusion of time and place — and that lead me to Chekhov. So many of Chekhov’s plays are about people who are trapped and long for another place or another time. They want to go back to Moscow, are back to a time when they were younger, when they were in love. They are paralyzed in an impossible sense of nostalgia, in a limbo world, within which they circle around each other, provoking each other out of boredom, desire, desperation. This state of limbo of the Chekhov characters seemed to resonate with our other exploration — the state of someone who is displaced and for whom “home” only exists in memory and not in reality, the state of someone who is captive in her own home due to the invisible toxicity of radiation, and who is forced to stay indoors.
I also began to have this desire to see a scene in which, against the backdrop of a white-washed, bleak Pripyat landscape of peeling paint and abandoned structures, a group of Chekhovian characters bustling in in fur coats, lively and robust, chatting away about the trials of their daily existence.
I was trying to find ways to drop into the Chekhov text from within the Brighton Beach world, as a portal to get to Pripyat. So today we played with lots of text lifted from Chekhov’s plays The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard — and Masha brought in the original Russian texts too. The monologues that seemed to work best taken out of context of the plays and into this nebulous world between Brighton Beach and Pripyat were Astrov’s speeches about how humans are destroying the environment, and Nina’s performance of Treplev’s play within the play. That text particularly, about the universal spirit waiting to be reborn after all life on earth has been destroyed, was resonant. It’s still difficult to see how the Chekhov text will work its way into the play, and I know it is a pretty heavy reference, but I feel like there is something key there.