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Brodsky/Baryshnikov

Mikhail Baryshnikov, left, and Alvis Hermanis are pictured.

Alvis Hermanis is at the helm as director of the Chicago premiere production "Brodsky/Baryshnikov."

The show, also conceived by Hermanis, runs Feb. 2 through 4 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago. "Brodsky/Baryshnikov" stars the legendary dancer/actor Mikhail Baryshnikov in a one-man play featuring the poems of Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky.

"Brodsky/Baryshnikov," presented by Cherry Orchard Festival, is co-produced by The New Riga Theatre and Baryshnikov Productions.

Director Hermanis said he believes many audience members planning to see the show will be wondering what to expect of the production.

He assumes a good deal of audience members will be attracted by Baryshnikov's name while others will be drawn by Brodsky's works.

"I can assure in any case, that it will be a surprise to all of them," Hermanis said. The show, which is an emotional journey into the deep works of Brodsky, Hermanis said, will be spoken in Russian with English subtitles.

Hermanis said if audience members aren't familiar with the Russian language they'll still be able to "appreciate" the work where the "poetic images are most important."

The translations of the works into English, he said, are excellent. "The English translation is of the highest possible quality," he said.

About the strong imagery in the poetry, Hermanis said it's the perfect choice to have dancer Baryshnikov reading the work because the language is also filled with much physicality.

"I had the idea to combine (the work) with the body of a dancer," Hermanis said. The production is in no way a dance show but demands the emotions and movement that a talent such as Baryshnikov can bring to it.

The Latvian-born Hermanis noted Baryshnikov, who was also born in Latvia, was a friend of Brodsky's for two decades.

"Do I imagine this performance with another actor? Of course not. It makes sense in this combination," Hermanis said, adding because of Baryshnikov's friendship with Brodsky he was the ideal candidate. "This performance is a chance for them to meet again."

Brodsky, who was born in 1940 in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, came to live in the U.S. in 1972. He died in 1996 in New York City.

"In the United States, Brodsky was more famous for his intellectual text," Hermanis said. "In Eastern Europe, he was known more for his poems."

Hermanis, who is the artistic director of The New Riga Theatre, said he's happy to be in Chicago for the presentation of the Brodsky production.

"I'm a big fan of Tracy Letts," he said about the playwright/actor and  Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member. "I was one of the first directors to bring (Letts') 'August: Osage County' to Europe," Hermanis said. The director brought Letts' play to Austria's National Theatre.

Hermanis said it's been rewarding working with Baryshnikov. "I have been a very lucky director because I have worked with a few great actors and singers of our time."

The director said Baryshnikov is "always very precise in every detail" in performance. "The biggest difference between an average actor and an outstanding actor is a question of precision," Hermanis said.

FYI: "Brodsky/Baryshnikov" will be performed Feb. 2 through 4 at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Tickets are $45 to $150. Call 312-334-7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org.

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Features reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.