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Man in a Case

Big star names aren’t usually the reason I attend the theatre.  But Mikhail Baryshnikov may be a worthy exception.  Once upon a time, I would only associate his name with breathtaking Ballet performances… but he’s made his way into feature films, Broadway and (hello!) we can’t forget his stint as Carrie’s boyfriend, Aleksandr Petrovsky.  Sooooo…I think we can add the title of actor in addition to dancer.  And it’s not difficult to understand that his participation would be the key reason to see his latest project, Man in a Case now showing at the Broad Theatre in Santa Monica.

What is this exactly?  Man in a Case is a “multimedia adaptation of two short stories (specifically “Man in a Case” and “About Love”) by Anton Chekhov.”  Well, what is that exactly?  Hmmm.  It’s a one-hour and 15-minute piece exploring two stories of love, failed love—anti-love, maybe.  They are distinctly different stories.  One tells of a shy man and his affection for a far more spirited woman.  The other, about a man who chooses to let his love for a married woman go.  I tell you a synopsis of the “stories” because as a dutiful reviewer I’m supposed to do that.  But the stories aren’t the reason to go see this show.  The stories are almost insignificant, in this experience.  Am I really suggesting attending a show in which the story isn’t the highlight (or at least a highlight) of the evening?  YES.  Is it my love for Baryshnikov?  Surprisingly, NO.

This is a true piece avant-garde theatre.  This is a rare treat…and even more exciting that it is a successful piece.  For some reason the LA theatre scene isn’t plentiful in its offerings like this.  We must rely on transplant productions to fill this artistic hole in our souls.  Man in a Case is delivered in the usual Big Dance Theatre style; Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar meld theatre, dance, music and video…to create a masterpiece.

I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the talent of the performers.  It’s the kind of talent that leaves you wondering why some people are dealt such abundant gifts while you have an average amount.  But in the best way possible.  Baryshnikov shares the stage with Jess Barbagallo, Tymberly Canale, Chris Giarmo and Aaron Mattocks.  It seems they can all act, dance, and sing, and Mr. Mattocks even plays the accordion.  My hat is off to this group of creators for giving Mr. B the lead role, without making it the “Baryshnikov Show.”  It’s an ensemble piece, to be sure.  There are two stagehand types on stage, aiding in making the multi media magic, providing live Foley and whatnot.  Somehow they managed to enhance without ever distracting from the performance.  I’m not sure how that happened.

Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed the piece but I haven’t gone in to what it was about, in depth.  I’ve mentioned the love stuff…the failed love stuff.  If I had a dime for every piece I’ve seen about love, I could at least buy myself a few nice cocktails.  So what?  Does this piece of theatre pass my “So what?” test?  Yes.  A thousand times, yes.  How so?  It left me inspired.  And if you have an artistic bone in your body, it will inspire you, too.  True artistic inspiration can be rare at times.  And not to be taken for granted.

Don’t let the opportunity to witness high talent, feel the inspiration, and experience something magical, pass you by.  This is a piece of art.  In every sense of that statement.  Go.  For the love of Pete.  Go.


The Broad Stage

1310 11th St.

Santa Monica

Ends May 10.

$47-$137 (discount tix available on the usual sites)

(310) 434-3200