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Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Presents "Nikolai and the Others"
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Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Presents "Nikolai and the Others"

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Lincoln Center Theater
At the Mitzi E. Newhouse
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten
Nikolai and the Others
(Show Web Page)

By Richard Nelson
Directed by David Cromer

Betsy Aidem, Natalia Alonso, Blair Brown, Michael Cerveris,
Anthony Cochrane, Lauren Culpepper, Alvin Epstein
Kathryn Erbe, John Glover, Jennifer Grace, Katie Kreisler
Stephen Kunken, Haviland Morris, Dale Place, John Procaccino
Michael Rosen, Gareth Saxe, Alan Schmuckler

Sets: Marsha Ginsberg
Costumes: Jane Greenwood
Lighting: Ken Billington
Sound: Daniel Kluger
Choreography: George Balanchine
Ballet Staging: Rosemary Dunleavy
Ballet Master: Jeff Edwards
Stage Manager: Richard A. Hodge
Casting: Daniel Swee
Exec. Director of Development & Planning: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 17, 2013

One has the sense of being invited for one weekend into a Westport Connecticut salon, in a 1948 terrace and work studio, belonging to Lucia Davidova (Haviland Morris). Lucia’s weekend guests are 17 friends, confidants, their relatives, ex-spouses, and a couple of nubile performing artists, who enhance the aesthetics of the experience. Among those 17 guests is George Balanchine (Michael Cerveris), renowned Russian choreographer and Co-Founder of New York City Ballet. Balanchine’s gift to the occasion, a celebration for Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein), an aging set designer and ex-husband of Vera Stravinsky (Blair Brown), is a preview of his ballet, “Orpheus”. Igor Stravinsky (John Glover) has composed the music, and this “preview” within a play allows the audience to catch the fascinating rehearsal process, as it develops. Natalia Alonso and Michael Rosen are cast as Maria Tallchief (Balanchine’s new wife) and Nicholas Magallanes (a young American dancer), the dancers in the collaborative preview. The play’s title character, often found in whispering shadows, between dining and drinks, is every guest’s “best friend”, Nikolai (“Nicky”) Nabokov (Stephen Kunken). Nicky is a wannabe composer, who has moved to the “right” in American politics to establish deep connections for desired documents and advice to help his Russian circle. Natasha Nabokov (Kathryn Erbe), Nicky’s ex-wife, is another of Lucia’s house guests, accompanied by her fiancé, Aleksi Karpov (Anthony Cochrane).

If this play had been produced in a small, intimate setting, it would have been helpful to project a “relationship map” or list of characters with their various connections. It was only in intermission, in studying the program, that I was able to absorb the nuanced table talk, as it related to kinships and liaisons. More than chatter was served at the Act I terrace picnic, as small tables and linens were extended side by side for a retro scene right out of Impressionist paintings of lively, luxurious picnics. But, on close listening and observing, gestures and rejoinders revealed envy, regret, seduction, unease, arrogance, provocation, introspection, and more. Additional characters, joining in the terrace picnic, subsequent get-togethers, the ballet event, and one-on-one confrontations, as well as a scheme to give Sergey a pleasant memory, included Vladimir Sokoloff (John Procaccino), a friend of the Stravinskys, Lisa Sokoloff (Betsy Aidem), his wife, Evgenia (Katie Kreisler), who runs the ballet school, Natalia (Jennifer Grace), who works at that school, Kolya (Alan Schmuckler), ballet rehearsal pianist, Anna (Lauren Culpepper), Lucia’s niece, a wannabe ballerina, easily seduced by a coy Balanchine, Serge Koussevitsky (Dale Place), a conductor, and Charles Bohlen (Gareth Saxe), an American State Dept. official. The Russian characters converse exclusively in English, with no accent, to illustrate intimacy of communication, a clever device. When these Russians speak to a non-Russian, they acquire a Russian accent, as they would sound in reality.

Michael Cerveris creates a variety of what may have been Balanchine’s facial tics, self-absorbed half smiles, hungry gazes upon the young Anna, and obsessive focus on Maria and Nicholas’ preview ballet. His professional repartee with Mr. Glover’s Stravinsky is a balletomane’s feast. Ms. Alonso (Maria) has been reviewed in this magazine for her earlier stunning performances with Ballet Hispanico, and she dances with elegance on tonight’s very busy stage. Mr. Rosen, as well, is a magnetic presence. The elderly Sudeikin, as performed by Mr. Epstein, is a worthy showcased character, a soulful man, who sits at this weekend retreat alongside his conflicted former wife. Ms. Brown, as Vera, now Stravinsky’s wife, seems yet drawn to Sergey, who is resigned to his aging condition, an illness fleetingly mentioned. David Cromer has directed to give each of these 18 characters unique details of personality and tone. Marsha Ginsberg’s retro, bucolic set is inviting and filled with Chekhovian echoes, such as fine possessions mixed with the eclectic, rudimentary tables and chairs. Jane Greenwood’s costumes, Ken Billington’s lighting, and Daniel Kluger’s sound all enhance the viewing. Rosemary Dunleavy, Ballet Mistress for New York City Ballet, is a pro’s pro, and Orpheus the ballet, as performed here as a salon preview, had exceptional integrity. Kudos to Richard Nelson for this fine new play, and kudos to George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky..

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at