MARCH 29, 2018 – Igor Golyak sees theater as family. The Jewish artistic director, 39, and a 2002 graduate of the Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute in Moscow, has described his Needham-based Russian-American troupe, Arlekin Players, accordingly.
“We have a family-type atmosphere in our theater just like in life,” he said.
In his playbill welcome for the current production of “Dead Man’s Diary (A Theatrical Novel),” Golyak invites theatergoers to watch a company with a “sense of camaraderie” that sets it apart. Whether audience members are fluent in Russian or depend on the troupe’s English audio translation, “Dead Man’s Diary” vividly demonstrates Arlekin’s ensemble strength and unique position as an exciting, risk-taking young troupe.
The play runs through April 1 at the Paramount Center in Boston.
Golyak, noting that “most of the company is Jewish,’’ pointed to past productions that include the troupe’s non-musical “Fiddler on the Roof” entitled “ Memorial Prayer’’ and “Tales of the Last Wednesday,” an original production based on works by Isaac Bashevis Singer. This year, the ensemble already has staged “US,” a documentary that details the accounts of 213 Russian Jewish immigrants. That show returns May 4-6 at the Arlekin Players’ Needham studio.
“Dead Man’s Diary” is based on a novel that was never finished, written by Russian author and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), whose works gained world renown after his death. The lead character, Sergei Maksudov, is based on Bulgakov himself.
In the play, Maksudov lives in a box – both literally in Nikolay Simonov’s striking rectangular stage design and figuratively in frustration and growing anger about the difficulty of staging his work. After audience members fill the rows on both sides of the set box, panels give way so that theatergoers have a “you-are-there” view of the novelist-playwright’s ordeal.
Audience members also become the portraits of famous theater and literary figures –Sarah Bernhardt, Ivan Turgenev, and Euripides among them – that Maksudov sees before him at a pivotal moment.
David Gamarnik, who stars as Maksudov, proves very expressive in both subdued frustration during a variety of difficulties and outbursts of rage in disputes with a director named Ivan. Audience members who are not fluent in Russian will still appreciate Gamarnik’s rich body language, varied facial expressions, and modulated inflections.
Eduard Snitkovsky has the right combination of tenacity and paranoia as Ivan. Veteran choreographer Victor Plotnikov (who has worked at Boston Ballet and internationally) captures the push and pull of Maksudov’s life and dreams as well as the moves of the very different people who he encounters.
“Dead Man’s Diary’’ is a very lively indication of both the Arlekin Players’ adventurous repertoire and Golyak’s highly imaginative directing.
The Paramount Center is located at 559 Washington St., Boston. For tickets, call 617-824-8000 or visit arlekinplayers.com.