I told a friend just how much I loved the five-hour Lithuanian production of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” on Saturday, and he asked me, “Why did you love it?” and, “How did you understand it?” Two good questions – I am sure you agree. Forgive me for recycling my response to him for the purposes of this blog entry. I thought you all might like to read about the play, and I didn’t want to type my thoughts again. Call me selfish, I don’t mind.

Here it is:

I read a synopsis of the novel before going into the play, and then caught what I could of the Russian subtitles that scrolled above the stage. But most important, as with all of the theater that we see here (it’s all in Russian), the inability to understand the language forces one to read the physicality of the actors, the tone, volume, pitch, clarity/lack of clarity of their voices, and the visual cues from the set/costume/lighting designs.

This particular show was so visually stunning; the set and the choices for symbolism made by the director, oh my gosh, it was just beautiful. So precise. And the acting was amAZing. Every choice, every action was specific, even if I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was – they knew what it was. Also, there is an essence of physical endurance here that I have never seen in the States. Russians, and now I think Lithuanians as well, believe that people from other countries should be able to understand the entire story of a text even if they don’t understand the spoken words.

To give you an example, when everybody thinks that this one girl is going crazy, she is seated in a chair, and sheets are wrapped around her like she is in a hospital; then while soft, sweet music is playing (there has been a lot of soundtrack like music in all of the shows that we have seen thus far), three other women begin to pull strings out from her hair and drape them over their arms, almost like the strings are her dreams or thoughts, and then one women pulls out a large pair of scissors, and as the music builds, snips one of the strings. As she does, the sound of glass shattering explodes into the music. It’s sharp and quick, like the snipping of the hair. Then the women pull the rest of the strings out, roll them up along with the sheets, and walk away. The woman is left sitting on the chair for a moment before she slowly stands and removes the chair to the back wall as new characters step forward.

I don’t know if my words can convey just how powerful this silent scene was for the audience. Truly, the only word that I have for it, and many other moments, is “Stunning.” It was like a tour-de-force blend of trying to understand and letting myself get swept away. I wish I could have understood it all. But I didn’t need to.

Seeing productions in another language is a fascinating experience. More to come on this subject.