Finita la Comedia!
Dailes Teatris, Riga, Latvia
premiere 14 Septembre 2012, Main stage
200 min., with intermission
Dainis Grūbe, Kaspars Zāle, Uldis Grass, Egons Gerdzijevskis
Artūrs Skrastiņš, Dārta Daneviča, Lidija Pupure, Lauris Subatnieks, Sarmīte Rubule, Juris Žagars, Ieva Pļavniece/ Ieva Segliņa, Ērika Eglija, Dainis Gaidelis, Juris Strenga, Dainis Grūbe, Artis Robežnieks, Aija Dzērve, Mārtiņš Počs, Artūrs Dīcis, Intars Rešetins, Inita Dzelme, Anete Krasovska, Regīna Eglija, Hardijs Gruduls, Aivita Taube, Līga Zvirgzdiņa, Elīna Gailīte, Sigita Paula Cepleviča, Inga Dzintare, Anita Siliņa, Solveiga Brumziede, Vivita Baltrune, Anta Šeniņa, Inita Bērziņa
"The Suicide" is most probably the play that faced the communist censorship the longest - 60 years of ultimate ban. The text was written in 1928 and first staged in 1987 in the USSR. It is called "The Government Inspector" of the XX-th century and Erdman is often compared with Gogol and Sukhovo-Kobylin. Two theatres are competing in staging the play - Meyerhold's Theatre and MXAT (Moscow Art Academy Theatre). Meyerhold, Stanislavsky, Lunacharsky, Gorky and Bulgakov all unite in support of "The Suicide" but all efforts prove to be futile.
Erdman wrote the play at the age of 28 and it is his last play. In 1933 he is exiled in Eniseisk for "counterrevolutionary literary works" and later released under special regime - he is deprived of his right to establish in any of the 10 big cities in the USSR, including Moscow. In spite of that, he is the scriptwriter of some of Stalin's favourite films - "Merry Boys" and "Volga, Volga". His name, though, is erased from the titles of those films. In 1948 he receives the Stalin premium award "Brave Men" but this is not considered as a legitimate reason to lift the ban from "The Suicide". The play was first staged in Russia several years after Erdman's death.
A Russian black comedy of the twenties, 'The Suicide' satirises the plight of an unemployed man, desperate enough to contemplate ending it all. The play considers the nature of humour; the hearts of the self-centred characters who will use anyone to further their own selfish aims; and the triumph of the individual, who keeps his dignity in a society where the slogan "for each and all" echoes emptily. For Semyon, only the prospect of death can give the individual the freedom to act and speak as he wishes. ~ Jo German
Semyon Semyonich Podsekalnikov is an ordinary man fighting life's difficulties as best as he can. Unfortunately, he has been unsuccessful so far as he is jobless and moneyless. He shares a household with his wife and her mother and conflicts are often, though love and affection are clearly part of this family. Semyon has a dream of which his wife and to some extent his mother-in-law are supportive - he wants to learn to play the tuba. This dream is a promise of a better life, full of money, fame and happiness, but most importantly - a life that will permit him to take good care of his family. He is so obsessed with the idea that his wife manages to save some money and rents a tuba for him to practice. Practice turns into a disaster - he is unable to produce even a single tone, let alone a certain note or a whole musical phrase. He follows the instructions in the booklet about reaching exact notes and comes to know that in order to continue practicing he would need to buy a piano. The prohibiting price of a second musical instrument throws him back to even more severe depression and Semyon decidedly attempts suicide. But he is startled by a man in the room. The noble stranger turns out to be sent as a speaker of the intellectual elite with the mission to convince Semyon to not simply kill himself, but to kill himself for a cause and turn his own death into a symbolic act of protest against the miserable state of the Russian intellectual elites.
The news that there is a man who is decided to commit suicide spreads rapidly. People representing all kinds of professions and causes are now coming to visit Semyon and trying to convince him to kill himself in the name of all sort of ideas - in the name of romantic love, in the name of Venus, in the name of the butchery, etc. Those guests are so convincing and needy that they even agree to certain compromises: they are all going to have their suicide notes signed by Semyon who ends up signing 18 of them. He is promised the best possible celebration of his act, beforehand of course, as well as that his family will be taken good care of.
In the heat of the party when he is supposed to shoot himself Semyon suddenly realises that "life begins 30 min. before we die". Severely drunk, he manages to escape the enthusiastic crowd and hides behind a tree where he produces a misleading gunshot and falls into sleep drunk. In the meanwhile his wife and mother-in-law receive the news that Semyon Semyonich is now dead and his suicidal act is highly appreciated by the society and its causes, and he will be given an honourable burial - one that a heroe of his grandeur deserves. The funeral procession brings in the coffin with the "dead" man inside and leaves it at the house until the ceremony begins.
What a surprise it is for the two grieving women when the man raises from his coffin-comfort with a terrible hangover and truely convinced that he is dead and standing in front of heaven's door!
A production full of laughter, sadness, social responsibility, deep philosophy and, not least, love for life as difficult as it might be.
NOMINATIONS & AWARDS:
Nomination for Days of Culture Award, category "A Kilogram of Culture", given by LTV 1's programme "100 Grams of Culture"
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Theatre Production of the Year
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Alexander Morfov, Stage Director of the Year
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Lidija Pupure, Supporting Female Role of the Year
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Dārta Daneviča, Young Actor of the Year
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Mārtiņš Vilkārsis, Set Designer of the Year
Nomination for "Actors' Night" Annual Theatre Awards 2012/2013 - Igors Kapustins, Light Designer of the Year
Annual Theatre Award "Actors' Night" 2012/2013 - Artūrs Skrastiņš, Leading Male Role of the Year
Annual Theatre Award "Actors' Night" 2012/2013 - Ilze Vītoliņa, Costume Designer of the Year
Annual Theatre Award "Actors' Night" 2012/2013 - Inga Krasovska, Choreographer of the Year
Audience prize "Actors' Night" 2012/2013 - Artūrs Skrastiņš, Male Actor
"Morfov stages the production as if shooting cinema: with the help of the designer Martins Vilkersis he builds an amazingly detailed set that impresses with its large scale where thirty people are on stage and everything is moving, echoing, trembling, breathing, all of this merging into a picturesque kaleidoscope. Morfov draws the picture of the production, he dictates the emotional temperature and translates the thoughts with utmost lucidity. [...]
Morfov knows. In the beginning life is funny and that compensates many of its faults - during the funny part of the production the viewer laughs, giggles and cackles. The comediographer that Morfov is can easily and brilliantly serve reprise after reprise. During the second part life is given a sense only if one is needed by someone, by anyone. Podsekalnikov, say, is tenderly needed by his beloved Masha. In the end - life is beautiful. And here it is - this quality of life, the beauty. And whoever might think it is not beautiful, let him chat for a while with Podsekalnikov.
"The Bulgarian guest director Alexander Morfov seamlessly attaches all elements in the production to create an authentic Soviet life retrospective on the Main stage of Dailes Teatris, soaked with grotesque and irony. Probably it is namely due to the reason that the show is not about us (that is, not about today's society) that we are able to once again remember Gogol's exclamation: "What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourself!" [...] Everything on stage could be also percepted as a one-man show (or even as taking place only in the leading character's imagination) - the surprise in the begining of the suicidal experience, the visualisation, - because Morfov doesn't end the production with Nikolai Erdman's ending but introduces an additional epilogue. He has put a frame to the play, opening and closing with the same scene - a man asking his wife for a sausage with some bread, white or rye, in the middle of the night. Thus all the experiences lead to the revelation that true meaning of life can only be understood 30 minutes before death and expressed with the means of simple daily issues, like choosing between white or rye bread. And those details, in their essence, ironically embody Hamlet's "to be or not to be".
On White and Rye | Ieva Rodina, kroders.lv, 25.10.2012
"Alexander Morfov's "Finita la Comedia!" presents the suicide so incredibly lively and Latvian-oriented. It gives an accurate view on us from an outside perspective - as if everyone (that is, the EU, our large Eastern neighbours, NATO) is ready to exercise upon us their mercantile interests, whims and cheap popularity." ~ Daina