We caught up with Baryshnikov, 74, by telephone at house as he was making ready to renew the position of Firs, which critic Helen Shaw described in New York journal as “the doddering lamb of second childhood.” The solid is great, the particular results — together with the make use of of an enormous robotic arm — are ingenious, however there’s no mistaking the modest star of this present, from the second he skitters onstage, caught up in a fierce fall breeze.
Q. I’m so glad I bought to see this very uncommon manufacturing in New York. Might you inform Boston audiences a bit about what to anticipate, or your emotions about it?
A. Oh, no! I haven’t been within the viewers. That is your story, not mine!
Q. How did you change into concerned? I collect buddies informed you about “State vs. Natasha Banina”?
A. My buddies within the Cherry Orchard Pageant on the Brooklyn Academy of Music mentioned, “Take note of this! You wish to see it.” And I used to be actually taken by the way in which it was finished and the minimalism of presentation. The director and his spouse did this, like, within the nook of their bed room. It was very highly effective. We on the BAC put it on our web site, and it was an amazing success. We saved up a sort of relationship with Golyak, an attention-grabbing younger director. That’s how our relationship began.
Q. “The Cherry Orchard” is after all a part of your patrimony.
A. Properly, it’s iconic. It’s the final Chekhov play, proper earlier than he handed away, and it’s an attention-grabbing time, the start of the final century in Russia. Chekhov noticed the start of capitalism, the transition from constitutional monarchy. On the identical time, it’s about household dynamics and love and loyalty. It’s about enthusiastic about house. And it’s form of superb: The play has been interpreted in so many hundreds of the way in several cultures and completely different languages. It doesn’t matter what the construction of the society, someway this play all the time survives, and it tells us new tales.
Q. It’s common: that eager for house, which we are able to’t appear to carry on to. I learn someplace that you simply view it as a comedy, primarily?
A. Properly, that’s not me. Should you learn Chekhov’s diaries and his letters, he didn’t fairly agree with [Konstantin] Stanislavski, who directed the primary manufacturing. He put this as a drama, and I actually assume it’s a comedy. Take a look at the way in which Jessica Hecht interprets Ranevskaya: She actually works a comedy in probably the most virtuoso method! She’s an amazing actor on this position. It matches her like a glove.
Q. Had you labored along with her earlier than?
A. No, I knew her simply from tv. I hadn’t seen her even stay onstage. I knew her face, I knew her popularity, and I knew individuals who labored along with her.
Q. There’s a buoyancy to this manufacturing, but additionally some darkish moments — as when a Russian soldier exhibits up.
A. Properly, the director streamlines sure factors, you realize, and it has political elements. This, possibly I can’t precisely agree with him! [Laughs] He’s the director and I’m only a employed actor. It’s experimental work. There’s all the time completely different opinions: within the viewers, or with the critics, the actors. That’s the conventional lifetime of the theater.
Q. It appears as if the character of Firs has been expanded an amazing deal.
A. Properly, there may be one scene which Stanislavski as director omitted. It’s a sure dialog with Firs and Charlotta. Though they know one another for a few years, someway they find yourself speaking to one another about their previous. He tells her how he ended up, being completely harmless, in jail for 2 years. They sort of discover one another for a while, these two unusual characters. For a time.
Q. I’m having a tough time picturing “The Orchard” in a big, formal theater just like the Orchard [Stage, at the Emerson Paramount Center], a renovated Artwork Deco area from the Nineteen Thirties. This manufacturing is so high-tech.
A. Properly, it’s this sort of “quick ahead,” you realize? That’s the mark of the set and costume designers. It’s like a moon panorama. And the costumes haven’t any intervals connected.
Q. What’s it like, sharing the stage with a large robotic arm? No worries about being upstaged by a machine?
A. Properly, I’ve appeared right here and there and there’s already on-line efficiency with robots — precisely the identical robotic! One is a younger woman dancing to Bach music, and one other an Italian dancer doing gymnastics utilizing the robotic’s arm. It’s very attention-grabbing, you realize? The expertise is stepping into our performing arts.
Q. When you’re onstage appearing, are you conscious of the “hologauze” close-ups being projected behind and in entrance of you?
A. No. I attempt to not even concentrate. I’m making an attempt to neglect that there are cameras round.
Q. You simply keep targeted on the textual content, the human interactions.
A. It is comedy — a bittersweet comedy. Tragicomedy is that blend of excessive factors of human habits and the questionable. Like Lopakhin [played by Boston-based actor Nael Nacer]: He’s making an attempt to purchase the love of Ranevskaya, with out understanding her. You can’t purchase love. She would by no means stay with the man who destroyed this lovely cherry orchard — to construct high-rises, or little summer time houses. It sounds acquainted, don’t you assume? That’s what’s occurring round us, in every single place.
Q. Talking of which: Lots of people of your place, having skilled such nice worldwide success, would exit and purchase homes or a yacht. As an alternative you constructed a gorgeous facility [the Baryshnikov Arts Center] to assist different artists.
A. That’s my job, for the previous 17 years. It’s my first job — the remainder is icing on the cake. It was actually enjoyable to do that small position. If I contribute something, I’m actually grateful.
Interview was edited and condensed.
At Robert J. Orchard Stage, Emerson Paramount Heart. Nov. 4-13. $59-$125. 617-824-8400, www.emersontheatres.org