LCT did their own production later that year, staged by LCT Associate Director Gerald Gutierrez (The Heiress, A Delicate Balance) and starring Oscar and two-time Tony winner Kevin Kline in the title role.
We didn't want to make too much of this, but IVANOV - which is pronounced "ee-VAHN-off", by the way - was the first world classic we have done in many years. In part, we waited until the right director and the right leading actor were available. We feel lucky to have Gerry and Kevin at the core of this production.
IVANOV is not well-known here; the last major New York production - with John Gielgud and Vivian Leigh - was in 1967. And we think audiences will be surprised by it.
The play was written as a traditional 19th-century Russian melodrama, which typically had a big, meaty central role. Chekhov supplies one with Ivanov, a Russian landowner who is deep in debt and self-doubt. He has fallen out of love with his ailing Jewish wife (the play deals vividly with Russian anti-Semitism) and he is overwhelmed by feelings that he cannot extricate himself from a life gone terribly wrong.
Though this is an early work of Chekhov's (it was his first produced full-length play), one can already recognize some themes from his later plays: the constraints of everyday life and the hunger for escape; intellectual and financial poverty; the aftermath of drinking and illness; and a self-righteous doctor (a stand-in for Chekhov) to comment on the other characters.
Nonetheless, IVANOV is different from his better-known dramas such as Uncle Vanya or Three Sisters, because it is not infused with the melancholy of the later plays and has very little, if any, sense of nostalgia in it at all. Also, IVANOV is a rollercoaster ride of playing styles, as scenes veer from low farce to high drama and back again. Actually, it is really like a passionate, terribly funny Ibsen play (and that's not an oxymoron, as anyone who saw the recent Broadway revival of Ibsen's A Doll's House can attest).
It's also a bit like Hamlet, in that Chekhov's eponymous hero is a brooding, tortured soul. But unlike Hamlet (whose name he invokes several times throughout the play), Ivanov remains in the grip of a profound inertia, seemingly incapable of taking action. But if Ivanov the character is hopelessly depressed, IVANOV the play is anything but depressing. Chekhov's dazzling mix of comedy, satire, melodrama and psychological drama makes for a revelatory evening of theater.
IVANOV featured designs by John Lee Beatty (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Jams Ingalls (lighting) and Aural Fixation (sound), with original music composed by Robert Waldman, who also adapted music by Tchaikovsky.