Dodin's Larger-Than-Life Plays Grab 2 Golden Mask Awards
Published: May 5, 2014 (Issue # 1808)
St. Petersburg director Lev Dodin's two productions playing at the Golden Mask Festival in Moscow this year grabbed two awards out of ten nominations. The director's rendition of Friedrich Schiller's "Love and Intrigue" grabbed best large-scale dramatic production, while designer Alexander Borovsky was named best designer for his work on this show.
But awards are awards and art is art and quite often the twain between them doesn't meet.
In any case, Dodin is one of those rare artists whose work justifiably takes on an aura that is larger than life, larger, even, than the huge, swirling maelstrom of contemporary artistic activity that surrounds him. Styles, fashions, trends and modern manners passed this storied director by long ago. And, yet, we keep looking back through the haze to see what he is up to.
While it's true that Dodin is a throwback to another time, his work has deep roots in the straight-laced realism and unironic approach of the Soviet era — a relatively direct descendant of what is perceived to be Stanislavskian theater. But looking back at what Dodin does, it is amazing how powerful such an increasingly outdated kind of art can be when created by someone with Dodin's gift.
That doesn't mean Dodin always plays by the same old rules. Far from it. In "Love and Intrigue" and in Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," both of which can be seen over the next month at the Maly Drama Theater in St. Petersburg, he applied a fine-tuned economy to these large, classic plays. In his hands "An Enemy of the People," especially, can almost be said to be a monologue enhanced with a few hard-edged group scenes.
Ibsen's "Enemy" tells the story of a principled man being crushed for standing up to weak, spineless members of society and overbearing politicians. Dodin turned it into a blistering political pamphlet, a howling rebellion against conformity, censorship, corruption and lies.
Premiering almost a year before the beginning of the information war surrounding the current Russian-Ukraine crisis, it now sounds like a bold, direct response to it. The main thrust of the play is that a doctor wishes to warn his community that a factory is poisoning the waters of the spa where he works, even if it damages his family and friends financially. But in Dodin's interpretation, the aspects of ecology and industrialization are pushed to the margins, leaving primarily a white-hot battle between truth and lies.
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