Mayakovsky Theatre, Moscow

Director – Mindaugas Karbauskis

A play by Marius Ivaškevičius

Space design – Sergei Barkhin

Costume designer – Natalia Voinova

Lighting Designer – Sergei Skornitsky

Translated by Georgy Yefremov

Cast: Mikhail Filippov, Anatoli Lobotsky, Igor Kostalevsky, Alexander Andrienko, Yuri Korenev, Viktor Zaporozhsky, Julia Solomatina, Svetlana Nemolyayeva, Vera Panfilova, Niyaz Gadgiev

Duration – 3 h, 10 min

Age restriction – 16+

The lengthy and dignified dinner ritual suggested the form and rhythm to the makers of Kant. Designer Sergei Barkhin created a hexagonal, which was a diminished model of the Shakespearean theatre, with scarlet velvet benches for the audience and the acting space bandbox for the Emmanuel Kant’s dining guests. Sipping at good wine helpfully served by Kant’s servant Martina and not listening to the chatter of the ladies the philosopher and his three friends (a theologian, a judge and chief of police) are conducting their unhurried and seemingly gratuitous uncalled for conversations. Nothing can shake up their balance, except maybe for the young foreign lady who just happened to pass by the house of the Konigsberg anchoret in the hope to get an autograph on a copy of the book The Critique of Pure Reason and to hear an intelligible explanation of the subject of “Critique”.

The elegant and witty play by major Lithuanian playwright Marius Ivashkevichius is taking us, the people of the 21st century, to a particular yet quite undistinguished day in the 18th century that is “hanging somewhere in the middle of the universe”. Director Karbauskis, as punctual as Kant himself, is trying to materialize the other time and the other space where other people lived. This long theatrical journey, just like in Tom Stoppard’s case, takes the travelers through many traps and shockers. Nothing is stated directly but everything seems to have been said.

Kristina Matvienko

Such juicy and delicious (in both figural and gastronomical senses) productions have been few and far between in the Moscow theatre landscape. “Kant” staged by Karbauskis is no doubt one of them. It is a true dainty served by the best actors with extra-class performance techniques. However dainties are not meant to be appreciated by all. “Kant” at the Mayakovsky Theatre is quite a deli to be tasted throughout three-and-a-half hours. It is a real medley consisting of great philosopher Immanuel Kant and the philology students’ nightmare, presented in a very humane and even sweet manner. Fear you not least you should be burdened with “Critique of Pure Reason”. It is unlikely that all the actors are familiar with this fundamental treatise. In fact the only one who should be is author of the play Marius Ivaškevičius. And this is Karbauskis’ first deceit.

Vera Kopylova, RIA Novosti

The long hoped-for premiere at Mayakovsky Theatre has proved to be a true feast for eyes and minds. Karbauskis’ staging abounds in gracious intellectual humor and delicate dolor. The like-named play was written by one of the best known Lithuanian dramatists Marius Ivaškevičius (Moscow theatre-goers may remember Rimas Tuminis’ staging of his “Madagascar”). The original sets were designed by the classic of the national stagecraft Sergei Barkhin. The cast includes of such national big-timers as Mikhail Filippov, Svetlana Nemolyayeva and Igor Kostalevsky. This Russian-Lithuanian creative endeavor is by all means a must-see. A dinner in the philosopher’s dining-room lasts over three hours, some 140 spectators seating very close –about half-meter from the dinner-mates at a white-clothed round table. They can see all the details: the table-wear, the laces on the characters’ dresses, the codfish on the platter… They can hear every word, pause or whisper. The so called architectural set comprises a scarlet hexagon (an esoteric symbol by the way) that accommodates the scenic action and adds particular intimacy to the scene. Everything is simple and almost in a family way. No one is bothered by the ideas contained in “Critique of Pure Reason”. As he is dining with his friends Kant forbids talking about the work and expresses himself with incredible simplicity. He seems both naïve and wise. Every line is spoken by Mikhail Filippov with the intonation of an overgrown infant, causing the audience to roar with laughter (suffice is to mention: “I am done with conscience and am going to enter on love”).

Natalia Vitvitskaya, Vash Dosug

The traditional dinner with the guests of the philosopher who believed that a good joke improves digestion and table-talk is a great art. This table-talk must be conducted progressively and avoid any cross-themes or passions. Everyone must speak decorously and with dignity.

They talk about one’s need for women and of how beautiful life would have been without them. They discuss the rickety chairs and the launching of the air-balloon. Suddenly there is a tap on the door and Charming Phobie, the niece of Kant’s friend, asks an autograph from the author of the freshly published “Critique of Pure Reason”. The pretty girl is very eager to know what Kant’s philosophy is about and he starts spelling out the nature of reason, imagination, love… Eventually the girl vanishes and shortly it turns out that the friend’s niece has been long dead. Henceforth the philosopher and his audience engage in philosophizing about what it means to be human. The audience has to ponder over this and other important issues along with the philosopher for the scarlet hexagon, created by designer Sergei Barkhin, accommodates both the dinner-mates and the viewers. The esoteric symbol going back to the times of the Shakespearian theatre that also constitutes the model of the world creates the atmosphere of intimacy and makes one feel like indulging in intellectualizing.

Yelena Smorodinova, Vechernyaya Moskva