Baryshnikov makes a ‘Case’ for Chekhov 

Like most artists, Mikhail Baryshnikov would rather perform than talk about performing — but being a good soldier, he is promoting his upcoming performances at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in “Man in a Case.”

“I’d rather not do interviews, but I have to sell tickets. I feel always strange to talk about the process. You wouldn’t tell the truth anyway,” the legendary dancer-actor-producer admits most gracefully on the phone.

“It’s such a private thing. What you’re saying publicly, it’s so artificial actually. I’m trying to be honest,” he laughs, “but definitely I wouldn’t tell you the whole truth.”

Baryshnikov, who appeared in 2012 at the Berkeley Rep in “In Paris,” based on a Russian story, returns this weekend in a show based on two Anton Chekhov stories, “Man in a Case” and “About Love.”

“It’s all about love,” Baryshnikov says, “but from two perspectives.”

The “Man in a Case” character is a painfully introverted man who becomes drawn to a very outgoing woman. Constricted by a hyper-awareness of rules of turn-of-the-20th-century Russian society, he is terrified to make a move lest he misstep.

“He’s very conservative. He believes, very sincerely from his point of view and like a lot of conservative people right now, in a lot of strange things, in my view,” Baryshnikov says. “He thinks that any impropriety and any wrong move might cost him his position in society, his respect, his power.”

“About Love” explores a more unrestrained passion.

Both stories are well-known to Baryshnikov, who calls them “a must-read in middle school in Russia.”

Chekhov, however, probably could not have imagined the adaptation coming to the West Coast by way of Hartford Stage. Conceived and directed by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar of New York’s Big Dance Theatre, the piece combines projection, video, music, movement and narration in 70 experimental minutes.

“It’ll be fun to speak those Chekhov ideas. I’ve sort of lived inside Chekhov’s work for most of my adult life,” says Baryshnikov, citing multiple “Three Sisters” experiences.

“There’s actually a little excerpt from ‘Three Sisters’ that’s woven into ‘Man in a Case,’ so it doesn’t surprise me that I find myself inside of this piece now.”

Though Baryshnikov has been at the helm of many projects, he is quite content to have someone else direct this. He says, “I’m just working with these two directors like every other actor.”


Man in a Case

Where: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursday-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 2 p.m. most Sundays; closes Feb. 16

Tickets: $45 to $125

Contact: (510) 647-2949,

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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