Man in a Case -- Fascinating and Puzzling

By Karen Isaacs

Hartford Stage is offering a fascinating if both puzzling and uneven world production. “Man in a Case” takes its title from an Anton Chekhov short story and it is combined in this production with another Chekhov short story.

 

The production is adapted and directed by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, the artistic directors of Big Dance Theater. Big Dance Theater is an innovative group that uses text, dance, visual design and music in the productions.

 

A Man in a Case is therefore representative of the company's work. They have taken two 19th century stories of unrequited love and inter-mixed them with music, some dance, movement and visuals. They have kept the main characters in 19th century dress, but surrounded them with others in more modern dress and with multiple video screens and images.

 

Does it work? I am still puzzling over this piece. At times it worked brilliantly and at other times, the video images took attention away from the performers and simply confused matters. I spent too much time trying figure what the video images were, why they were shown and how they were achieved.

 

The big name that is attracting audiences to this production is Mikhail Baryshnikov. The former ballet dancer with the matinee idol looks and charm has himself, moved into innovating and contemporary forms of dance, movement and production with his White Oaks Project.

 

He plays the two central characters: the shy, officious man who falls in love with an extraverted woman in the title piece, and the man who forgoes his love of a married woman. As could be expected, Baryshnikov brings charm to the characters getting our sympathy.

 

He is surrounded by a terrific cast that also lets feel the emotion. And yet, there is a but. For while I enjoyed parts of A Man in a Case, I also was bored at times and have spent days trying figure out what it all means.

 

If you want to see a new style theater, you will enjoy A Man in a Case at Hartford Stage, through March 24.

 

This review aired on WNHU 88.7fm.

 

 

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