This enchanting "silent movie
opera" based on Abram Room
's scandalous 1926 film, BED AND
SOFA, is set in Moscow
, in 1926, where a housing crisis rages.
In a cramped apartment, Ludmilla, a put-upon housewife, lives in dreamy complacency with her
cheerful despot of a husband, Kolya. One day, Kolya's handsome comrade, Volodya, arrives from
the country, but can find no lodgings -- so Kolya offers him their sofa.
"Liberty is precious. So precious it must be rationed." -Lenin
When Kolya leaves town on business, Volodya and Ludmilla learn they have interests in common: current events, silent movies, and lovemaking. Kolya returns early from a business trip, he is shocked to discover that Ludmilla and Volodya have become lovers. Kolya moves out, but there is still nowhere to live, so he reluctantly returns, taking the sofa, leaving Ludmilla and Volodya the bed.
"Man is a sensuous being. And the sensous suffer." -Marx
Kolya will not give the lovers any privacy, stalling them with endless games of
checkers, so that slowly, to Ludmilla's frustration, Volodya becomes more interested in the manly
sport of checkers than in sex. Finally, Volodya reveals himself to be just as much a domestic despot
as Kolya. Ludmilla banishes Volodya to the sofa and takes the bed for herself.
"Uniting with the object of one's love is an aim unworthy of human beings." -Tolstoy
But Ludmilla's "marriage" to the two men has already had its consequence as she is now pregnant.
The two men bicker over who is the father and eventually decree that Ludmilla must have an
abortion. As Ludmilla waits her turn in a frighteningly efficient clinic she catches sight of a living,
breathing baby and decides against the procedure.
Once home she packs up and abandons her two "husbands," declaring them unworthy to be fathers.
Kolya and Volodya find themselves alone in the close Moscow flat and as Ludmilla rides, alone, into
the exciting unknown, Kolya is left with the bed, Volodya, the sofa.
The musical, written by Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan, received its premiere at the Vineyard Theater on February 1, 1996. Ms. Pen's quirky, upbeat music carries a Russian flavor influenced by music from the silent movie period. Befitting the silent source material, the simplicity of the characters, and the "round robin" plot, the language is spare and ironically repeats; this is further highlighted by the changing musical settings. The original production starred Michael X. Martin as Kolya, Jason Workman as Volodya, and Terri Klausner (Goblin Market) as Ludmilla.