You’ve never seen Chekov like this!

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2012

For three nights in a row, Susanna and I saw a play directed by Levan Tsuladze at Marjanishvili Theater. Each play was outstanding for a different reason. The Decameron had spectacular sets and scenery. University of Laughs had outstanding acting. And the third play, The Lady with a Dog used puppets with actors and great sounds (dog barking) and music to tell a short story by Anton Chekov.

Tsuladze must be an extremely creative person. After seeing his three plays, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why aren’t University of South Carolina (or American) plays this creative?”  In addition to attributing the difference to individual genius, I think an answer might be too many resources. If you have very limited resources, perhaps you’re forced to be more creative. For example, at the beginning of the play, we saw a thin black “curtain, with a long but short hole at the bottom. In front of the curtain was the story’s narrator–a street person. Through the hole we could see the feet of soldiers, lovers, and busy people passing by. The sound effects helped make the scene very evocative.

The story is about an adulterous affair between a Russian banker and a young lady he meets while vacationing in Yalta. In the photo above, the young lady is represented by the puppet on the left. The Russian banker is the actor on the right. In between are puppets fulfilling the role of “extras.” A similar combination of puppets and actors appear in the photo to the right. The dog is played by a small puppet and its barking repeatedly brought laughter from the audience.

In Tsuladze’s version of the play, the plot is less detailed and it moves at a nice, slow pace, full of emotion. We didn’t need to read the translated words on the screen very often, and the quality of the translation was great. As a result, we could pay close attention to the wonderful details of the puppet work. Great job!