Mikhail Baryshnikov in ‘Man in a Case’

still shot from "Man in a Case" | photo courtesy of ArtsEmerson
Still shot from Man in a Case | Photo courtesy of ArtsEmerson

The most famous ballet dancer in the world performed at the Cutler Majestic Theatre this past Friday night. Mikhail Baryshikov, the Russian-American dancer, is known for having his run with the Kirov Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet. However, besides dancing, he has also had a successful acting career. He made his film debut and picked up an Oscar nomination in the 1977 film The Turning Point. He also co-starred with the renowned tap dancer Gregory Hines in the 1985 film White Nights, with choreography by Twyla Tharp. And now he has brought his dancing and acting to the stage of Boston.

Mikhail Baryshikov performed in Man in a Case, a play adapted from the Anton Chevev’s 19th century short stories, “Man in a Case” and “About Love.” The show ran from February 28 to March 2, and the performance was directed by Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson of the Big Dance Theater.

The storyline is rather straightforward. The first part of the play is is about a cold, isolated man who falls for a girl quite opposite his character. The second part is about lovers who were never meant to end up together. The issues of love are the central themes in both stories. The rather unfortunate conclusions to both stories teach us that when the opportunity–love or not–arises, we should take it before it is too late.

Despite the simplicity, Man in a Case is not your typical play. The art of performance is taken to a whole new level, as acting, movement, audio, and technology are blended together to make an interesting show from beginning to end. Modern plays like Man in a Case are a lot like contemporary art. You may not know exactly what the work is trying to say, but it definitely knows how to make a statement. It may be frustrating at first because when it comes to aesthetic response, we often think that we must know everything. The avant-garde type of play definitely plays on your senses and never leaves you bored. Going against the traditional Shakespearean plays and going in with not knowing what to expect is definitely worth the contemporary play experience.

For instance, there was a wonderful scene in which a man and a woman were lying down next to each other and the projection screen was showing them with a train moving in the background. When the two got up to leave, their bodies on the screen were kept in the same position and the train kept moving–perhaps expressing eternal love? The projections and screens were seamlessly used throughout the show. It was an innovative play on theater and film.

There was not much dancing to be found besides the folk dancing. Baryshnikov does not partake in the folk dancing, but he does dance for a mere 30 seconds—those 30 seconds were able to show how legendary of a dancer he is. Mikhail Baryshnikov continues to astound his audience and show how there are many possibilities when it comes to the art of expression.

If you are interested in seeing plays from ArtsEmerson, check it out here.

About Michelle Cheng

Michelle Cheng (COM '17) is the Managing Editor of The Quad. She writes about higher education, digital culture and lifestyle. She has previously interned at Forbes, New York Family and Upworthy. Reach her at mbcheng@buquad.com

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