University of Rochester

'Family Affair' Presented by International Theatre Program

April 10, 2008

Classic Russian Satire about Corruption Reinvented for the 21st Century

The timeless human desire to greedily ascend the social ladder despite the cost to individual integrity permeates the University of Rochester's International Theatre Program's production of Alexander Ostrovsky's classic Russian satire A Family Affair.

This perverse and comic take on the decomposition of a materialistic, hierarchy-addicted society opens April 17 and runs for eight performances, including one matinee, through April 26 at the University of Rochester's Todd Theater located on the River Campus.

Adapted by Nick Dear from Ostrovsky's original 1850 play, this production of A Family Affair explores the narcissistic obsessions of a bourgeois family as reflected in the mirror of current pop-cultural values and icons. The production is collaboration between award-winning theater professionals and student actors.

Director Roger Benington further layers Dear's adaptation with stylistic influences drawn from burlesque shows and Vegas extravaganzas, while staying true to Ostrovsky's script. Benington, the award-winning director of Salt Lake City's acclaimed Tooth & Nail Theatre, refers to the upcoming production as "Paris Hilton meets Project Runway."

"While it takes place in Russia, the play relates to our current mortgage crisis and credit-dependent world as well as it does to the original Russian society it sought to lampoon," says Nigel Maister, artistic director of the International Theatre Program.

Unlike Ostrovsky's realist contemporaries, such as Dostoyevsky who focused on the aristocracy and peasant classes, Ostrovsky's biting satire explores the self- destructive greed of a merchant-class life.

A Family Affair established Ostrovsky's reputation as a dramatist, but his satirical insights into the commercial morals of the day also aroused bitter feelings among the Moscow merchant community. Discussion of the play in the press was prohibited and representation of it on stage was out of the question. The drama was also the cause of the dismissal of Ostrovsky from his civil service position in 1851.

Maister, whose creative ventures span the genres of theater, fiction, and puppetry, believes that the contemporary production reaffirms the "artistic risk-taking the UR International Theatre Program has become known for."

Set designer for the play is Dan Evans whose design work includes award-winning graphics for chef Thomas Keller's restaurant The French Laundry; Obie award-winning costume designer Kimberly Glennon; lighting designer Rebecca Makus; sound designer/composer Michael McQuilken; and choreographer Jonathan Ciccarelli.

The cast includes Philip Dumouchel as Bolshov; Anna Fagan as Ustinya; Ben Fusco-Gessick as Rispolozhensky; Shannon McCarter as Agrafena; Chrissy Rose as Tishka; Eugene Vaynberg as Fominishna; Rebecca Weiss as Lipochka; and Jonathan Wetherbee as Lazar.

The production will run Thursday, April 17, through Saturday, April 19, at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, April 23, through Saturday, April 26, at 8:00 p.m. There is a matinee on Sunday, April 20, at 3 p.m. Tickets for A Family Affair are $6 (UR students); $8 (UR staff, faculty, alumni, and seniors); and $10 for the general public. Tickets can be reserved online at, by calling (585) 275-4088, or purchased at the door one hour before the performance.