AISLE SAY San Francisco


Based on two short stories by Anton Chekhov
Adapted & Directed by Paul Lazar & Annie-B Parson
of Big Dance Theater
Produced by Baryshnikov Productions
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Roda Theatre
2015 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 647-2949

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Mikhail Baryshnikov was one of the greatest male ballet dancers of his time. Now that he's in his 60s, he has taken his talents to other ventures, such as his Baryshnikov Productions.

Most recently, he's starring in the venture's "Man in a Case," adapted from two 1898 short stories by Anton Chekhov and presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

In the first story, "Man in a Case," Baryshnikov plays Belikov, a teacher of Greek who's so rigidly moralistic that he casts a pall over everything and everyone. He briefly comes out of his shell when he meets Barbara (Tymberly Canale), the outgoing sister of a newly arrived teacher, Kovalenko (Aaron Mattocks). Unfortunately for Belikov, the relationship doesn't work out.

In the second story, "About Love," Baryshnikov plays a lonely man who falls in love with a friend's wife, also played by Canale. Even though the attraction is mutual, the relationship ends because she leaves when her husband takes a job in a different town.

The stories were adapted and are directed by Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson, founders of Big Dance Theater. Parson also choreographed the interactions between Baryshnikov's and Canale's characters.

Much of the production features effective live and recorded videos designed by Jeff Larson. He and sound designer Tei Blow do their work while seated at a long table onstage (set by Peter Ksander with lighting by Jennifer Tipton and costumes by Oana Botez). Sitting with them most of the time are the show's other two actors, Paul Lazar and Chris Giarmo, who also serves as music director and sometimes plays accordion.

The show runs about 75 minutes with no intermission. Despite the creative staging and multimedia and despite fine performances by the cast, the show is only mildly interesting. It's difficult to care much about Chekhov's characters.

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