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LA Theater Review

The Last Night of the last Tsar

Will history ever record the true fate of Russia's ruling family during the birth of the socialist state? If so, it won't be with much assistance from this convolutedly extended one-act. Beginning 20 years after the Romanov's mass execution, the play follows Yakov Yurovsky, former superintendent of the Ipatiev house where the family was held in captivity. Now confined to Moscow's Kremlin Hospital, Yurovsky is visited by Maratov, a former Bolshevik colleague, who torments him into reliving that murderous night in 1918.

With the production double-cast, the actors on the night reviewed struggled valiantly to keep straight the minutia contained in Irina Knyazeva's translation of Edvard Radzinsky's original play. Steve Guilmette as the anguished Yurovsky acquits himself admirably despite ripping through a plethora of Russian surnames faster than the ear can follow. As Maratov, Alex Bakalarz comes off initially as a Slavic version of Renfield, all twitches and maniacal giggles. Credit him for calming down considerably during the third and final section of the show, in which he convincingly lays out his theory as to what may have occurred in the basement. Sandwiched between these confrontations is a flashback in which Nicholas (Alan Avenel) and Alexandra (Diane Davisson) are confined to a drawing room. She embroiders; he paces and exercises. They compare diary entries while reminiscing on their lives and love in cloyingly upbeat tones. Their Christian-based strength is believable, but for parents separated from their offspring, facing who knows what, there is an alarming lack of urgency. Additionally, director Slava Yakovlev distractingly breaks their established imprisonment by moving the royal couple to opposite ends of this venue's wide playing space, where they read from bundles of stockpiled letters, speaking to each other yet never making direct eye contact.

David Carreno's tender lighting is effective. Scenic designer Vladimir Davydov's tri-sectioned playing space includes a centrally located set of double doors. These also function as a screen for film- and sound editor Christoph Rindlisbacher's authentic black-and-white preshow footage of the Romanovs in happier times. Rindlisbacher's use of an amplified alarm clock for scene shifts, however, is unnecessarily lengthy and earsplitting.

Presented by and at the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. Oct. 21-Nov. 26. (323) 960-7745.

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