from Walking on Ice: An American Businessman in Russia
Frederick R. Andresen


In the translated program notes to Edvard Radzinsky's play The Last Night of the Last Czar, [director Valery] Fokin comments regarding the play and the event that it so succinctly dramatized, as follows:

"What is the main factor of this play? Why has it been developed in this way?

The main thing here is the untameable Russian element, which is not even outlined genre-wise. It is not by accident that in our play there are penetrations into different genres without any obvious motivations: into the ballet, circus, music, voice, drama. It seems to me that the nature of the Russian man is always the same, no matter what guise it may take. Everything has been pre-determined. There has been a hand of fate, a sign of destiny for us. That is why our Russian disposition has also been pre-determined. I even think, I'm almost sure, that if we knew ourselves better, we would make fewer mistakes and our reforms would progress better.

We do not know our own disposition well enough, and it conceals so much explosiveness and destroys everything that was so well defined and going so smoothly, then suddenly... It is not by chance that "suddenly" is Dostoyevsky's favorite word. Something always happens: not because somebody is a fool and somebody else a scoundrel. Our very nature, the element itself, is capable of obliterating everything. Moreover, it is getting pleasure from doing so. But this element must not be frightening. It is cruel – but also ridiculous. Some things are done merrily, with one's eyes shining, for which there is absolutely no credible definition available. There has to be a note of merry craziness in everything that happens onstage.

Surely, such a tsar has been necessary in order for such horrible events to have happened in Russia. As a matter of fact, the country was facing a choice, a trial – which it did not stand. It embarked on a journey that is now coming to an end. The century is coming to an end as well. And today, I suppose, our play could be not merely of cutting-edge interest, but truly interesting from the viewpoint of the fact that the last 80 years of this century have proceeded under the sign of that night. It is one thing to form a thought about murder – and quite another to actually go and kill someone.

From the moment there is real blood on your hands, there comes into being an absolutely different measure of guilt – which is passed on to the next generation."

Valery Fokin, rehearsal of the play, July 1, 1996