I saw *Love and Intrigue* at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 6/7/18. This was my last show of the season at my beloved BAM - - I've loved them since I first moved here, but they catapulted into a whole new level this fall when they became the first organization to recognize me as a member of the press! Love to love you, BAM!
*Love and Intrigue* is a play from 1784 by Friedrich Schiller. It was the source for Verdi's *Luisa Miller,* which I saw at the Met this spring. It was being done by the Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg. A Russian company doing a German play in New York - - you might think this is the height of multiculturalism, but in 1993 BAM presented the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden doing *Madame de Sade*: a Japanese play that takes place in France, being done in Swedish in New York. Hello.
ANYWAY. The play was an unsettling mixture of the old and the new. Obviously the play is old, and the declamatory style of the performances was also rather old school. I don't speak Russian, but I could tell that the actors had a lovely, easy way with the heightened language. And (spoiler alert!) any show that ends with a murder/suicide, and the leading lady having a long, drawn-out death scene, having drunk poisoned lemonade, that's a glorious fossil!
But then the new, that's where I had a problem. The opening was darling: the leading lady walked onstage, reading a book. Uniformed stagehands came on and placed a chair under her just as she sat down, and placed a table under her just as she placed the book on it. And the leading man ran onto the stage, jumped belly-first onto the table, and slid into a kiss with the leading lady. What a charming and sweet way to open the show. But nothing else for the next two hours that matched that level of wit or invention. The staging was all fire and no music. Representational, but not at all emotional.
The stand-out performance was by Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Luise Miller.
I was briefly tempted to get a ticket to see her in *Ivanov* at City Center next week, but then I remembered that I have sworn off Chekhov. Every Chekhov play I've seen in the last fifteen years has been boring Boring BORING. I keep thinking that the next one will win me over, but no. I've decided that Chekhov is more satisfying for the actors than for the audience.
[Photo by Victor Vassiliev, courtesy of the BAM Press Ofice]