The entire production takes place in a dressing room with two makeup stations and two mirrors. There is a display of dresses and wigs are scattered around the space. This is a work in progress. A large sign on the front door reads: “Silence! The performance is continuous.
Khamatova and Mironov step into what could easily be their usual street clothes: a hoodie, jeans, an unpretentious black shirt. During the performance, they will transform on stage, change their outfit and look as they get older.
The two actors begin by reading their lines aloud, discussing how to pose as their characters. Slowly, through the discussion, they adopt their roles, most visibly imitating accents: the pronunciation derived from Mikhail’s southern Cossacks with long vowels and the very high-pitched chirp of Raisa from a major in enthusiastic philosophy in a country where the only accepted philosophical school was Marxism.
Khamatova and Mironov, who are among the best dramatic theater actors of their generation, leave the stage only once, for the intermission of this three-hour performance. Slowly and smoothly they read and gamble their lives: The story of Stalin’s purges is followed by the horrific war with Germany. So their lives are consumed by their academic love affair and, finally, by the rise of Gorbachev to the top of the ranks of the party nomenklatura.
The story of Gorbachev at the head of one of the two world superpowers is treated as background noise: “It was only a six-year working day,” Raïsa recounts from the stage. In the end, when the actors are already completely immersed in their characters, we only see a 90-year-old Mikhail. (At this point, Mironov is wearing a mask that covers his entire head, with Gorbachev’s port birthmark in full display.) For the last few minutes, Mikhail is alone, mourning the death of his wife in 1999 from a leukemia, remembering her last words: “Do you remember if we returned the white shoes we borrowed from Nina for our wedding?”
The success of the play and the insatiable The demand for tickets, which sell out in half an hour and cost up to $ 250, can be attributed to the fact that its creators had something personal at stake.
For Hermanis, Gorbachev, who freed his native Latvia from the Soviet yoke, was the third person “who changed his life the most after his father and mother,” he said in an interview with a Russian public broadcaster.