by George Walker
This play is set in an era when very little was left to be held sacred. Every aspect of life was seen as broken--marriage and romantic relationships, family loyalty and love, ideas of class, authority, and principles--all were seen as corrupt and outmoded aspects of culture. I am amazed by the remarkable parallels between Russia in the 1860s and the U.S. in the 1960s. Among the radical intelligentsia, the young women were cutting their hair short and practicing free love, the young men were growing their hair long and wearing blue-tinted sunglasses, and everywhere the "establishment" was being criticized, undermined, and even physically attacked.
As critic Robert Wallace observes in his preface to the play, "The more Bazarov asserts his nihilism, ... the more he ends up telling everybody he loves them; the more he sets out to destroy the existing order, the more he affects reconciliation amongst the people he meets." Perhaps Bazarov, like any other young radical, is motivated by a deeper intuition of how the world ought to be. As parents struggle with the radical ideas of their children, it is sometimes difficult to hold on to love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We hope you are enriched by the experiences this play offers, as we have been.
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