Ethereal Landscapes | Contained | Death of Ivan Ilych

Production Video 2004

The Death of Ivan Ilych

Donald Freed’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych was given its world premiere in Granville, Ohio at Dension University—April 16, 2004. The play begins at its conclusion. We hear a dying man’s final breaths. This is followed by the announcement of his death: “Gentlemen! Ivan Ilych has died.” We know from the outset (Tolstoy’s title, Smert Ivan Ilicha, is also a clue) that Ivan will not escape the fact of his mortality. In morphine induced dreams, he remembers a syllogism from grade school: “Caius is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore Caius is mortal.” The play’s movement is from Ivan’s denial of being Caius: “But I am not Caius!” to his acceptance of being mortal. By evening’s end an audience that converged from New York to L.A. will share that assurance. One wishes the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had also made the pilgrimage. When death and carnage parade as patriotism they are not viscerally believed. The Death of Ivan Ilych is believable death. This was a remarkable evening of theatre—an evening of life and enlightenment.

This was a dream production. Dan Bonnell flew in from Los Angeles to direct. The set design was by Brad Steinmetz, the lighting by John Edward Ore, the evocative screen presentations were by Christian Faur and the sound designs by Andrew Johns and Dan Bonnell. Period costumes were nailed beautifully by Cynthia Turnbull and Sarah Casebolt. Freed’s words have no need of embellishment (the play would be a thing of beauty on a bare stage) but here in Granville they are wonderfully augmented by the creative team assembled at Denison.