We returned on Friday from our monastic retreat to greet some new company in our Moscow apartment. Our cousin and his family arrived from Surgut on vacation and stay at a nearby hotel while taking most evening meals with us. He is a fine fellow and his lively wife and 3 girls are the best company any soul could ask for, but their taste in entertainment is a little different from ours. And coming from the monastery only increases my own culture shock.
He invited us yesterday to accompany his family to see a show at the Moskvarium, a kind of sea-themed theater located in a huge cultural park of other museums and theaters north of Moscow called V.D.N.H. [pronounced V-Din-Ha]. We visited V.D.N.H. right before traveling to the monastery and went that time to a special museum dedicated to robots. My older son loved it, but I was less enthused by all the noise. This time I had high hopes that the show might combine the best in Russian theatre and dance with a theme park invented in America. What transpired was one of the strangest spectacles I have seen so far in Russia.
The language was clearly Russian, but the manner of storytelling and the mode of presentation reeked of Disneyland and all of its artificial feeling and manufactured fun. The price was my first clue. A general rule of thumb in Russia whether entertainment or restaurants are involved: the higher the price, the lower the quality or authenticity. The best culture and the best food can be had for the lowest price. In short, I paid the same amount of money for this sea show for 3 people that I gave for the four of us to spend 4 full days and nights at the Optina camp including 3 meals a day!
So what made the show itself so much like Disney without an official sponsorship from that monolithic Corporation? The actors for starters all portrayed that forced enthusiasm and goofy American smile. Ugh! It’s bad enough in America. Here, it looks totally out of place. I kept looking at the audience to gauge their response and see if there was any real chemistry, but they too seemed a bit too robotic.
The story also seemed too contrived. The special effects were impressive and the standard quartet of seals, sea lions, dolphins and orcas with their trainers were all quite skilled, but story was built to serve the effects and not the other way around. I almost wished they would have cut the price and time in half and just showed us the amazing animals; we would not have missed anything.
As it was, the 2 hour runtime kept finding more and more ways to suspend people from the ceiling and synchronize dancers with dolphins. As far as I was concerned, the show was over after the first 15 minutes. Real Russian theater blows this hyped up nonsense out of the water for a fraction of the cost. Do yourself a favor if you ever come to Moscow. Visit a Moscow ballet, a concert at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, or something more low-brow like the circus. And let the rich, goofy tourists consume this mass-produced fluff.