Theater Review: 'Nikolai and the Others' -- 3 stars
Nikolai and the Others
How very fitting that “Nikolai and the Others,” Richard Nelson’s new play depicting composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer George Balanchine in 1948 as they prepare the first piece to be produced by the soon-to-be-formed New York City Ballet, should be produced at Lincoln Center, merely feet away from where that company is now located.
This ensemble drama, which takes numerous factual liberties, is set at a rustic Westport, Conn., farmhouse where numerous Russian artist-emigres and their confidantes have gathered for the weekend, including Stravinsky (John Glover), Balanchine (Michael Cerveris), composer Nikolai Nabokov (Stephen Kunken) and set designer Sergey Sudeikin (Alvin Epstein).
The prolific Nelson has recently returned to the spotlight with his multipart “Apple Family Plays” at the Public Theater, which explore an American family against the backdrop of recent political events such as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the 2012 presidential election.
Like most of his plays, the atmospheric “Nikolai and the Others” eschews overt conflict in order to offer extremely detailed portraits of various individuals through everyday conversation. He also paints a chilling Cold War backdrop and delves into the rather generic theme of the artist’s role in society.
Selections from “Orpheus,” the ballet being readied for production, are gracefully performed by dancers Natalia Alonso and Michael Rosen.
Although this could have easily turned into a slow-paced bore, David Cromer’s exemplary production soaks in the ambience with such convincing detail, and features so many earnest and tender performances, that “Nikolai and the Others” succeeds as a compassionate, Chekhovian character study.
“Nikolai and the Others” plays at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through June 16. 150 W. 65th St., 212-239-6200, telecharge.com.