Пошлый–poshliy–is a word that Nabokov defines in this hell of an essay. Excerpt: “Ever since Russia began to think, and up to the time that her mind went blank under the influence of the extraordinary regime she has been enduring for these last twenty-five years, educated, sensitive and free-minded Russians were acutely aware of the furtive and clammy touch of poshlust.”
I will provide my own definition with my review of the Lenkom’s Cherry Orchard, which I finally saw this Saturday after having been once thwarted. I should have taken it as a sign.
It was a loud, brassy production. I think half the material had been yanked out because it was very short. Lyubov, the woman returning to her old estate and the center of the play, was played by a woman who seemed like a washed up television star, with horrible yellow curls. There was awful sentimental music drifting through the whole thing: every monologue and it was there again, this synthy syrup piped in on an overly loud soundsystem. There was some random sex thrown in — was that vagina grab really necessary? — and two much raucous laughter. The visiting beggar–silly Lyuba can’t find any silver coins for him, and gives him gold–was randomly turned into an Asian in bizarre pajamas. And there was nothing subtle in the play at all.
To give you an idea, you know the famous stage direction, the sound of the string breaking? The play never quieted down enough for you to hear that sound. Instead, the whole massive country house facade set, which had to be attended to with electric drills during the intermission, collapsed with an ugly thud.
At least the very distinguished actor who played old Firs was good.
As the first act started I noticed that the guy next to me–this is what happens when you get cheaper seats, I guess–had pulled out a bottle of something. It was brown even though the label was marked Gin. As my dad joked, “he probably made it right before he got there. Ha ha. This guy, probably sixty years old, drank and munched on chocolate throughout the performance, his wife sitting on, watching, neither encouraging or scolding. He would mumble something in my direction, and then say “sorry, sorry” quite often, by the end of the performance, he was repeating actors’ lines, gently punching the air, and humming along with the music. So I still got some good entertainment for the evening.
Anyway, we’ve been having some apartment drama. Last night I was cornered on the stairs by a middle aged woman who screamed that water was flowing down from our apartment to hers. If I understood correctly it had been trickling on her while she sat on the toilet. “If you don’t do something it will end in a scandal!!” she screamed. “Do you want a scandal?” So today after work I have to stick around at home while the plumber–he’s called a master in Russian, interestingly enough–comes for a marathon repair session. Such is life. In other apartment news, a nice airmchair materialized in my room. Apparently it’s mine to use now. Another one to file under “the unpredictability of Russia, I guess…”