Hungarian director János Szász has been a favorite with A.R.T. audiences since 2001, when he dazzled us with his breathtaking production of Mother Courage. Since then he has staged spectacular versions of Marat/Sade, Uncle Vanya, and Desire Under the Elms, always using the cavernous Loeb Stage to eye-popping effect.
János’ career is in film as much as theatre – his most recent movie, Opium: Diary of a Madwoman, has won an impressive array of awards at European festivals – and his theatrical style is richly cinematic. If you saw his Uncle Vanya you’ll remember that he staged it in a massive room with a bar at the back and a huge ceiling that projected over our heads into the auditorium. It was so realistic that it looked more like a film set than a stage design. The production was full of closely observed details of daily life, which gave Chekhov’s characters a great psychological complexity and pathos, perfectly in tune with that great play.
Chekhov is, in fact, János’ favorite playwright, and I can’t wait to see his production of The Seagull. It was Chekhov’s first great success, and cemented his relationship with the director Konstantin Stanislavski. The subject of the play is partly the theatre itself; it dramatizes the entangled lives of two actresses, the seasoned Arkadina (whom Karen MacDonald with play in János’ production) and the ingénue Nina, and their complex relationships with Arkadina’s son Treplev, himself an experimental playwright. I can’t think of a more fitting play with which to welcome János back to the A.R.T..