Adriane Lyne's recent film remake of Lolita may have caused a momentary tempest in a teapot, but a recent Off-Off-Broadway mounting of Edward Albee's theatrical adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel, staged by a Russian director, barely made it past the starting gate. Lolita, directed by Slava Stepnov, started previews April 16 and closed on opening night at the Gene Frankel Theater, April 19.
According to a press release from Sun Productions public relations, "Negotiations had been under way to continue the production at the current venue, but a final decision was made to end the run."
Spokesperson Stephen Sunderlin told Playbill On-Line (April 26) author Albee had faxed a request, the day of first previews, that the show run only four performances, rather than the customary three weeks allotted to Off-Off-Broadway shows. "He apparently gave permission for the workshop production only in honor of Nabokov's centennial but didn't really want it to go further than that," said Sunderlin.
Director Stepnov, a graduate of the Russian Academy of Theatre Art in Moscow, has staged 36 plays and musicals in eight major Russian cities during his 25-year career. He came to the United States in 1995 as a guest teacher and director at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. Arriving in New York in 1997, he became one of the founding members of STEPS Theatre Production Company and the International Theatre Workshop. His last work, Chekhov's The Seagull, was presented at the International Theatre Workshop last year.
The International Theatre Workshop chose to present Lolita in honor of author Nabokov's 100th birthday. The Russian novelist was born in St. Petersburg April 23, 1899. He gained international acclaim with his 12th novel "Lolita," which allowed him to retire from his teaching career and move to Switzerland to become a full-time write. Albee, author of the award winning plays Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Delicate Balance and Three Tall Women, is less known for his adaptation of Lolita, which premiered on Broadway March 19, 1981 and starred Donald Sutherland.
The film, by Stanley Kubrick and written by Nabokov (but bearing little resemblance to his novel), was nominated for an Oscar in 1962.
Lolita is the story of a literary professor who becomes obsessed with, and begins a tormenting relationship with, his 12 year old stepdaughter Dolores, nicknamed Lolita. Nansi Aliuka played the role in the ITW mounting.
The controversial 1998 movie adaptation of "Lolita" had Hollywood in a tizzy. Distributors refused to touch the $50-million Adrian Lyne film deeming it too racy for American audiences. Stepnov saw Lolita less about sex and pedophilia and more about being a slave to one's own ego.
-- by Becki Heller