Slava Stepnov's To Kill Charlotte is a tragicomic fantasy inspired by Chekhov's Ivanov, with the character of Charlotte from his masterpiece The Cherry Orchard inexplicably wandering in and out of the action. When one character announces he is bored, he starts a chain reaction that before long involves everyone's proclaiming his boredom. With a large cast of bored characters constantly complaining about their boredom, it becomes very easy to sympathize with the Russians who revolted in 1917. Something had to be done to stir up some excitement.
Unfortunately, there was no revolution to spice things up in Stepnov's production at his own Steps Theatre Production Company. At a lengthy two hours and 40 minutes, the evening came to life only fitfully, hamstrung by mediocre performances, bland lighting and costuming, and painfully self-indulgent direction that failed to take advantage of the rich source material in any meaningful or revelatory way. While Steps claimed to represent a theatre of incessant movement, notorious for its poignant use of gesture, body movement, music and light, it was thus a bit disconcerting to find none of those claims readily apparent in the production at hand. Unless an endless parade of performers entering, walking down one set of steps, crossing the floor between the front row and the stage, walking up another flight of steps and then exiting counts as inventive movement. The one physical aspect of the production that worked, Uta Bekaia's voluptuously smothering white draped setting, was barely used by Stepnov, who preferred to stage most of his show along the apron, on the steps ("Steps", get it?) and on the floor of the auditorium.
What life there was came from the charming Tzahi Moskovitz,
an energetic presence, and the masterful Tyree Giroux,
the only performer who fully understood and delivered what was
required to make the material work. But even these two life forces
were defeated by the endless tedium, a tedium which had several
audience members visibly slumping in their seats long before the
liberating house lights announced parole.
Strangely enough, two hours and 40 minutes is the same amount of time it took another early-20th-century masterpiece to up-end and sink. To Kill Charlotte was of course not a titanic disaster, just another example of misguided navigation that could have been avoided had a little common sense and humility been applied.
(Also featuring Lynne Bolton, Paul DuBois, William David Johnson, Maya Jowlar, Marisha Pessl, Brian Pevar, Judy Ramakers, Luba Ulianova, Leo Vilar, and Mary Vivian. Lighting by Jeff Brangan, costumes by Uta Bekaia, music by George Dzodzuashvili)
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita