Fine Revival of Satiric Bulgakov Play About 1920s Russia
NEW YORK — ZOYA'S APARTMENT Play by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Nicholas Saunders and Frank Dwyer. Directed by Boris A. Morozov. Starring Bronson Pinchot, Linda Thorson, Robert LuPone. At the Circle in the Square. UNDER the guidance of Soviet director Boris A. Morozov, this well-cast production of ``Zoya's Apartment'' represents a New York-Moscow alliance between the Circle in the Square and the Maly Theater. It also celebrates Mikhail Bulgakov, a major Russian novelist and playwright whose work was banned for many years in his own country. Although first performed some 64 years ago, the satire about human ingenuity versus oppressive bureaucracy is not without relevance today.
Zoya's problem is stark and simple: how to prevent the authorities - personified by the apartment house committee chairman - from splitting up her six-room apartment. Forced to devise some plausible stratagem for retaining the spacious quarters, Zoya (Linda Thorson) announces that she will turn the flat into a dressmaking establishment. The frock shop by day becomes the front for a bordello by night, employing matrons of Zoya's acquaintance and catering to affluent apparatchiks.
The Circle in the Square achieves a degree of success in presenting a satirist's view of a 1920s Russia as authentically as possible, yet in terms the audience can grasp. Miss Thorson (of TV's ``Marblehead Manor'') is most successful at bridging the gap between eras. Her superficially charming Zoya is an adroit operator, capable of cajoling or even blackmailing her associates into compliance. Zoya is more than abetted by scoundrelly, glib-tongued Ametistov (Bronson Pinchot of TV's ``Perfect Strangers''), who becomes the major domo of the establishment. Mr. Pinchot revels in the flamboyance and antic body language of the role. Robert LuPone lurks about the premises as Zoya's drug-addicted husband, a melancholy ex-aristocrat reduced to playing background piano.
An astute observation of human ingenuity in conflict with clumsily determined bureaucracy, ``Zoya's Apartment'' runs a course from broad farce to lethal melodrama. The play ends with bureaucracy's triumph. But in the long run, all was not lost. ``Zoya's Apartment'' has survived.