To take on the staging of a Tolstoy novel is no trivial feat. Television series with multiple one-hour episodes tend, by necessity, to skate over most of the action, never mind the dozens of characters’ inner lives. So director Armin Petras’s decision to develop Tolstoy’s late novel Resurrection for the stage is a brave one.
The settings are panoramic and evocative, making use of masks and shadow puppetry for flashbacks and imaginative props for prison, salon and steppe scenes. The live background music and soundscape, provided by Sven Kaiser, adds a sensitive and powerful atmosphere, but the piece feels somewhat rambling nevertheless.
It also feels tone deaf in more ways than one, perhaps due to the simplification required when translating an epic novel to the stage. The audience observes Prince Nekhlyudov’s remorse for having initiated the destruction of Katerina “Katyusha” Maslova’s life by impregnating her when they were both young, and how this remorse makes him change his egotistical ways – redemption is a frequent Tolstoy theme. But in 2022, shouldn’t we be more concerned with the woman who was wronged and sent on a downward spiral, rather than looking to admire and pity the man whose later attempts to redeem himself – to live a moral life, “without always feeling guilty” – still seem all about him?
Another problem is the representation of people bloodied by conflict in a Russian context on a stage that is quite literally around the corner from the Ukrainian Embassy. The production had originally been planned to premiere in November, but was repeatedly postponed on account of corona. Perhaps it should have been postponed a bit further down the line.
- Deutsches Theater, Mitte (In German, with English surtitles) May 25