Georgia on my mind – Tbilisi, 2006 – #8
Tbilisi, Georgia – October 25, 2006
I asked Keti’s nephew about the Georgian flag and where it came from. He said for a while they had a red flag with a black pattern. But they opted instead for the current flag which was the symbol of the Nationalist party. He didn’t make any reference to the crusades.
Twelfth Night didn’t fit into my festival schedule. Several other fascinating plays did. I saw a production of Waiting for Godot in Azerbaijani language (similar to Turkish), and a play about Marlene Dietrich in Georgian, as well as a play Keti directed in Georgian by an Italian playwright who is apparently very well known, but who I hadn’t heard of. His name is in the program in my checked-in luggage.
Keti’s production was absolutely incredible. It was about a married couple, and although I didn’t understand a word they were saying, I understood absolutely everything. They were a couple that had probably been married 30+ years, and Keti explained before hand that the husband suggests that they have an open marriage, and then gets jealous of his wife. Well, it was done in such a funny, clever, creative, imaginative way. The actress who played the wife is considered to be one of the finest comedic actresses in Eastern Europe, and I would add in the world. She is absolutely crushed and devastated and infuriated and humiliated that the husband would suggest such a thing. She goes out and sleeps in the living room. She become suicidal, and tries to kill herself, and her husband finds her, and in her unconscious state, you can see his deep love and care and concern, and he cradles her in desperation and doesn’t want her to go. When she becomes conscious again, there is a brief period of warmth between them, but then she suddenly remembers why she’s mad at him. He still hasn’t withdrawn his proposal to have an open marriage. So she gets angry again. But it’s all funny, funny, funny (it’s extremely expressive, and recognizable). At the beginning when the husband suggests this, her hair is in curlers, and she looks like a frumpy middle-aged housewife. And you can kind of understand why the husband might not find her appealing. They’ve clearly fallen into a routine with each other, and their life together is predictable and boring.
Then, after she’s overcome her complete depression, she pulls herself together and starts jogging, and wearing flattering clothes, and putting herself together in a fresh, attractive way. She gets dates. You can see the husband gets interested in her again, but she’s still so hurt that he asked for an open relationship to begin with, that she won’t have anything to do with him. And you can see they argue with each other. Then in his frustration he gets very aggressive with her, and this alienates her even further. So he becomes incredibly self-condemning, depressed and suicidal and tries to kill himself. Now the wife finds him in an almost unconscious state, and you can see her deep love and caring for him, and wanting him to live, cradling him. Then when he becomes conscious again, the same storm arises, because the open marriage proposal still stands.
Then she has a date with a young Latin-lover type at their house. She looks fantastic in a red evening gown. She cooks dinner, and the Latin lover starts to carry her into the bedroom. The husband sees this and explodes at the Latin-lover, and tries to grab the wife from his arms. And the wife is at first batting off the husband, but her attempts are not heartfelt. And then she ends up transferring to the husband’s arms, and batting off the Latin Lover who leaves, and it shows the husband carrying the wife off – and they look like two blissful love birds. And the bed which is a square box standing upright – a flat – to suggest a bed shows the two of them sleeping (standing up against the bed – with the illusion of lying down) with sparklers spinning around over their heads. I suppose what made it so good was the cleverness with which it was staged, and the brilliant hilarity of the direction, and actors. And the interplay of music and effects. It was done very cinematically (Keti is famous film director throughout the former USSR). Also, it reminded me of a clown show (in the best sense) in which the characters are very innocent, transparent, and over-the-top.
Something about not understanding the words captured even more the essence of the story for me in a way that made the play all the more memorable and distinctive. I have seen some of the best theatre of my life in Georgia, and was riveted even though I didn’t know the language. Everything I’ve seen has been so vivid and clear. Such a great example of how theatre is about so much more than words.