×

Ivanov

Helmer Austin Pendleton's production has the handsome look (of battered elegance) and elusive spirit (beautiful, but damned) of his prior Chekhovian outings for the CSC.

With:
Ivanov - Ethan Hawke
Borkin - Glenn Fitzgerald
Anna Petrovna - Joely Richardson
Count Shabelsky - George Morfogen
Doctor Lvov - Jonathan Marc Sherman
Zinaida - Roberta Maxwell
Babakina - Stephanie Janssen
Lebedev - Austin Pendleton
Sasha - Juliet Rylance

There are some wonderful light-hearted moments in “Ivanov,” Chekhov’s 1887 tragi-comedy about the self-dramatizing manner of Russian gentry living large on their country estates. But the title character doesn’t necessarily figure in these exchanges, and they don’t seem to register with Ethan Hawke, who seems hell-bent on playing this provincial Hamlet without a spark of humor. Aside from this curious indulgence, helmer Austin Pendleton’s production has the handsome look (of battered elegance) and elusive spirit (beautiful, but damned) of his prior Chekhovian outings for the CSC.

Set designer Santo Loquasto uses a few strong visual cues — the distressed facade of an imposing country manor furnished with a few heirloom pieces and overflowing shelves of dusty books — to define the precarious existence of an impoverished country gentleman living with a dying wife on a derelict estate. No wonder Ivanov, the young landowner played by Hawke, is depressed.

Popular on Variety

“The company of my wife is unbearable,” he complains of poor Anna Petrovna, a wraithlike beauty played by Joely Richardson (“Nip/Tuck”) with haunted eyes and an air of unearthly stillness.

Choosing the coward’s way, he makes his nightly escape to the nearby estate of his good friend, Lebedev, a rich and generous landowner played with puckish wit (and an enviable wardrobe) by Pendleton. Here he finds good food and drink, a rapt audience for his grievances and the adoration of Lebedev’s impressionable young daughter, Sasha, a darling but stupidly romantic girl in Juliet Rylance’s charming perf.

Ignoring the reservations of his stingy wife, Zinaida (the tiny but mighty Roberta Maxwell), Lebedev throws fabulous parties to entertain his neighboring landowners. Splendidly dressed in Marco Piemontese’s smart evening clothes and happily dancing to Ryan Rumery’s festive music, everyone has a great time at these soirees.

One of this production’s best scenes, in fact, takes place at such a gathering — a comic moment with Lebedev playing the genial host to fussy guests like Count Shabelsky (a mean-spirited old codger, in George Morfogen’s deliciously droll perf) and Mikhail Borkin (Glenn Fitzgerald, big and brutish), the scheming manager of Ivanov’s estate. While feasting on vodka and canapes, these provincial epicures reverently recall meals of white mushrooms cooked with onions and bay leaves; breaded and roasted snipe; and pressed caviar prepared with a little olive oil and a slice of lemon.

Ivanov is too sunk in guilt and despair over the way he has mistreated his wife, squandered his patrimony, brought his estate to the brink of ruin and pretty much wasted his life to relate to the self-indulgent ways of his idle neighbors. But they’re all so terminally bored that his self-pitying rants provide distraction, as a kind of after-dinner entertainment.

Taking their morbid interest at face value, Hawke complies with a bombastic perf that starts high and ends in self-immolation. It’s such an externalized performance style that there’s no air for nuance or room for expansion. And while the star gets full marks for passion and commitment, he seems to be doing all he can to subdue his own charismatic appeal, robbing Ivanov of the innate charm and physical magnetism that make Ivanov so irresistible.

Ivanov

Classic Stage Company; 199 seats; $125 top

Production: A presentation by the Classic Stage Company of a play in two acts by Anton Chekhov, in a translation by Carol Rocamora. Directed by Austin Pendleton.

Creative: Sets, Santo Loquasto; costumes, Marco Piemontese; lighting, Keith Parham; original music and sound, Ryan Rumery; hair, Paul Huntley; production stage manager, Joanne E. McInerney. Opened Nov. 11, 2012. Reviewed Nov. 8.  Running time:  TWO HOURS, 50 MIN.

Cast: Ivanov - Ethan Hawke
Borkin - Glenn Fitzgerald
Anna Petrovna - Joely Richardson
Count Shabelsky - George Morfogen
Doctor Lvov - Jonathan Marc Sherman
Zinaida - Roberta Maxwell
Babakina - Stephanie Janssen
Lebedev - Austin Pendleton
Sasha - Juliet Rylance

More Legit

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

  • MCC theater presents 'Alice By Heart'

    Steven Sater on Adapting 'Alice by Heart' From a Musical to a Book

    When producers approached lyricist Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”) to adapt Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into a musical, his initial reaction was to recoil. His initial thought was that the book didn’t have a beginning, middle and an ending. But Sater pulled it off with his production of “Alice By Heart.” After an off-Broadway [...]

  • The Lehman Trilogy review

    Sam Mendes' 'Lehman Trilogy' Kicks off Ahmanson's New Season

    Sam Mendes’ “The Lehman Trilogy,” which took London’s West End by storm will be part of the Ahmanson’s lineup for the 2020-21 season. It will be joined by Broadway hits “Hadestown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the season that will also feature four fan favorites and another production to be [...]

  • Zoe Caldwell Dead

    Zoe Caldwell, Four-Time Tony Winner, Dies at 86

    Zoe Caldwell, an Australian actress with a talent for illuminating the human side of imposing icons such as Cleopatra and Maria Callas in a career that netted her four Tony Awards, died on Sunday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to her son Charlie Whitehead. She was 86. Caldwell occasionally appeared in television and [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band interview

    Listen: How 'Cambodian Rock Band' Became One of the Most Produced Plays in the U.S.

    One of the hottest trends in American theater this season is Cambodian surf rock from the 1970s — and that’s thanks to “Cambodian Rock Band.” Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below: Playwright Lauren Yee’s genre-bending stage show, part family drama and part rock concert, has become one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. this season. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content