Harris Theater Presents Mikhail Baryshnikov in BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV
BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV opened Friday, February 2nd at Harris Theater. This production directed by Alvis Hermanis, can be best described as a cohesive one-man show that is both movement-based and theatrically performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov to the recordings of Joseph Brodsky’s poems.
A gazebo on the Harris Theater stage
The stage is set with a ramshackled gazebo with two benches placed in front. Mikhail Baryshnikov, suited and carrying a briefcase, enters in silence and casually sits on the bench. From the briefcase he takes out a few books, a bottle of Jameson and an alarm clock. The silence allows us to take in his magnificent presence-- this writer is still in shock to have been sitting merely 50 feet away from him.
The presentation of Brodsky’s poems begins with recitations by Baryshnikov in Russian. English translations by Jamey Gambrell are projected at the top of the gazebo making it fairly easy to still follow Baryshnikov’s every move. Brodsky’s words are delivered by Baryshnikov voice and recordings of Brodsky himself.
As the evening progresses, it becomes more and more difficult-at least for this writer-- to stay focused on both the translations and Baryshnikov’s performance. It is clear the experience would be that much more enriched if Russian had been a language known by all audience members. Nonetheless, we are all enraptured by Baryshnikov’s presence.
It is evident that these two artists had a special and unique relationship. Throughout the evening, Baryshnikov continues to reel us in with his honest and contemplative embodiment of Brodsky’s poetry. A poem about the black stallion places Baryshnikov in an ever-so familiar Flamenco stance. He imitates the hooves of the stallion with his quick yet simple footwork. As he strikes a pose, memories of watching and re-watching Baryshnikov’s ballet solos in Don Quixote on YouTube are invoked. The most visceral moments of the evening are of Baryshnikov’s manifestation of Brodsky’s poem about tragedy. He is stripped to nothing but his pants. We see his body and bare feet--such a vulnerable moment. The voice of Brodsky drives him to writhe. Everything about his movements seem real-- the emotions associated with pain and tragedy are unapologetically alive.
There was absolutely no questioning in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s intentions. Although this writer is unfamiliar with the life of Joseph Brodsky, Baryshnikov brought him back to life with this ever so honest homage. It was an honor to witness such an evocative and genuine performance. We were all able to celebrate and be in the physical and emotional presence of two great artists.
This writer highly recommends seeing this performance.
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Saturday, February 3rd, 8:00 PM
Sunday, February 4th, 2:00 PM
Approximate run time: 90 minutes
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E Randolph Street
Chciago, IL 60601
Tuli Bera is a performance artist based in Chicago. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She currently dances with Project Ishti led by Preeti Veerlapati and Kinnari Vora. Most recently she danced in their new work, "Prakriti" which premiered at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival. Bera works as Aerial Dance Chicago's program coordinator and is also the director of J e l l o Performance Series housed by Links Hall and Elastic Arts. This is an artistic platform that provides opportunities for Chicago artists to show their work. For more information about The Series Website.