Not exactly one to mince words, Robert Brustein, artistic director of Cambridge, MA's American Repertory Theatre, announced to the media that "anyone who doesn't have New Year's Eve plans by now is an idiot." As a conciliatory gesture, Brustein noted that the theatre will offer a special New Year's Eve performance, Dec. 31, 8 PM of its current show, The Idiots Karamazov. Free champagne will be served at intermission, and tickets are selling for -- what else? -- $19.99.
Though Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel, "The Brothers Karamazov," generally runs more than 1,000 pages long, you won't find any mention of Anais Nin or Mary Tyrone in it. This is through no fault of the Russian novelist, however, since Nin wasn't born, and Long Day's Journey Into Night hadn't even reached morning. Luckily, a young Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato combined to correct these startling omissions. In their comedy, The Idiots Karamazov, Russian literary translator Constance Garnett starts monkeying with Dostoyevsky's classic novel, and suddenly Nin, Tyrone and a host of other anachronistic folks, fictional and real, start elbowing the Karamazov clan. By the finale, Garnett herself jumps in to make things right again.
Original music by Durang and Peter Golub adds to the festivities at ART Dec. 10-Jan. 16, officially opening Dec. 15. Karin Coonrod, who staged Henry IV at New York Shakespeare Festival and Christmas at the Ivanovs at NYC's CSC, staged the zany comedy.
Durang's later works include Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Sex and Longing, and last season's well-received Betty's Summer Vacation. Innaurato's Gemini recently received a revival at Second Stage.
Castmembers in Karamazov include Remo Airaldi, Thomas Derrah (as Garnett), Sean Dugan, Karen MacDonald (as Nin), Paula Plum, John Douglas Thompson, Jonathan Hova, Mercedes Herrero, Faye DeBonis, Boni Alvarez, Douglas Goodenough, Greta Ramirez Sanchez, Antonio Suarez, Nora Zimmett, Naeemah White-Peppers, William Cryer and Oliver Poole. Designing the show are Catherine Zuber (costumes), Christopher Walker (sound), Michael Chybowski (lighting) and Scott Bradley (set).
For tickets and information on The Idiots Karamazov at A.R.T. call (617) 547-8300.
The show runs in repertory with Ivanov, staged by Russian director Yuri Yeremin, artistic director of Moscow's Pushkin Theatre. Back in October 1998, Debra Winger and Arliss Howard co-starred in Paula Vogel's Pulitzer-winning How I Learned to Drive at MA's American Repertory Theatre. That pairing worked so well, they returned to A.R.T. to star in Anton Chekhov's comedy-drama. Rehearsals began Oct. 12; performances began Nov. 26 for the production, which opened Dec. 1 and uses Paul Schmidt's translation. Ticket sales have been brisk enough to warrant adding an extra performance. Therefore, Ivanov will run to Jan. 23 rather than the 22nd, as previously announced.
Winger received Academy Award nominations for "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Shadowlands" and "Terms of Endearment" and also appeared in "Cannery Row," "Urban Cowboy" and the Steve Martin comedy "A Leap of Faith." Howard's film credits include "Amistad," "Men Don't Leave" and "Full Metal Jacket." Director Yeremin served as artistic director of the Central Soviet Army Theatre from 1981-87.
The last New York staging of Ivanov, written when Chekhov was only 27, featured Kevin Kline as the lead, a man bored to distraction -- and suicide -- by his provincial life. Later Chekhov works include The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Uncle Vanya.
Also in the cast are Alvin Epstein, Jeremy Geidt, Karen MacDonald, Kristin Proctor, Benjamin Evett, Will LeBow, Matthew Francis, Bill Church and Larisa Linetskaia. Designing the show are Scott Bradley & Christopher Walker (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and John Ambrosone (lighting).
Upcoming shows at A.R.T. include:
* Joe Orton's Loot, directed by Andrei Belgrader (CSC's Waiting for Godot), begins January 2000. The comedy tells of a son who is driven to dump stolen money into his mother's casket.
* Charles L. Mee's Full Circle, directed by Robert Woodruff, begins February 2000. Out of the chaos of high-speed capitalism and crashing economies emerges a hapless single woman caring for an abandoned baby. Based on an ancient Chinese fable, Circle is set in a turbulent 1989 Europe after the fall of Communism.
* Adrienne Kennedy's The Ohio State Murders, directed by Marcus Stern (The Public's Chang Fragments), begins April 2000. When a young student arrives at Ohio State University, she little suspects that the academic sanctuary harbors dark forces of hatred, and even death.
* Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, directed by innovative Macedonian director, Slobodan Unkovski, beginning May 2000. One of Shakespeare's last plays combines the tragedy of jealous Leontes with the comedy of Pedita and Florizel.
As founding director of the Yale Repertory and American Rep, Robert Brustein has supervised more than 200 productions. He serves as director of the Loeb Drama Center, Professor of English at Harvard, and drama critic for The New Republic. In recent years, he's been notable for his public arguments with playwright August Wilson about multi-cultural casting.
For tickets and information on the American Repertory Theatre season, call their Info-Line at (617) 547-8300 or check out their website at http://www.amrep.org.
-- By David Lefkowitz