The aptly named Big Dance Theater constructs rich, layered performances with gusto, pulling together disparate elements into three-dimensional, moving collages. Man in a Case tells two stories by Anton Chekhov by building worlds within a world through video, movement, costuming and a strong performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Both stories are bittersweet reflections of lives unlived; in the title tale, Baryshnikov plays Byelikov, a rigid, priggish professor of classics whose entombed life is thrust into disarray by a free-spirited woman, played by Tymberly Canale, who captures his affections. Baryshnikov aptly embodies the fearful, imposing Byelikov and audiences will have the strange satisfaction of seeing the world’s most famous living dancer refuse to join a line dance at a party. The second story, “About Love,” is one of longing and regret; Baryshnikov plays a man who does not act on his love for a married woman. Directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar layer the stories with imagery and reference—video-surveillance footage, folk dance, sixties pop tunes—giving Chekhov’s insightful stories a vibrant new life. (Sharon Hoyer)
Big Dance Theater at the MCA Stage, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010. May 15-18, Thursday at 7pm, Friday-Sunday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $50, $100 for opening night.