02 June, 2017

"Let Love In" from After Anatevka in Concert

Ron Raines
"Let Love In" by Matthew Sklar and Amanda Green

Based on Alexandra Silber's AFTER ANATEVKA from Pegasus Books

Read by John Cullum and sung by Ron Raines (Chekhov)

at Symphony Space, NYC,


Chapter 29, The Man in the Bar

    Perchik had always been driven by other forces, just as he had in the winter of 1903 when he stumbled into Moscow before he ever met Hodel.

    University was not the dreamworld Perchik had imagined, and thus, he had unceremoniously found himself to be expelled. The crash of his fantasy destroyed him. He felt at times as if it were a death fight between his ideals and the truth of the world. The people of academia were no less disappointing, no less competitive, duplicitous, judgmental, or small-minded. It was only their vocabularies and the landscape that differed. The world belonged to his horrible uncle, and to every man like him.
    What was the point of modesty? To hell with brilliance, Perchik thought, clutching his head harder still. This so-called gift had kept Perchik from everything he had ever desired in his life.

    He had boarded a train, awoke along the outskirts of Moscow, and stumbled into a bar as fetid as his spirit where he was now committed to stupefying himself into oblivion.

    So bitter was the wind outside that all inhabitants of the bar felt its sting as it whipped the ragged glass panes in the walls of the basement locale. The skins of the prostitutes were pimpled with chill; their still, predatory gaze only faintly unsettled.
    In an abrupt swirl of wind, a man entered, shivering as he made his way to the bar—a cough from the depths of his lungs rang out as he moved toward the stool beside Perchik. The man sighed, eyes watering, and hands with ink-stained fingers began clearing the cough-induced tears away from beneath the wire rims of his round spectacles. As he gained composure he brushed snow sharply off his long black coat, which hung loosely over his suit.
    Perchik lifted his eyes. Light streamed down through the windows from the bustling street above, casting a kind of celestial glow behind the man as he settled. When the drinks arrived he raised his in inquiry. “What brings you here tonight, comrade?”
John Cullum
    “Comrade?” the stranger stated with recognition. “All the young people in the cities are using that word nowadays!” He laughed, nestling down farther into his long coat. “Ah, thank you for the drink, comrade.” He smiled. Perchik lifted his glass to the stranger and nodded before downing its contents in a single quaff.
    “Love,” the stranger answered.
    “What brings me here tonight? Love. For every reason that is good and bad, love always seems to bring me to the bar!” He threw his head back and laughed, then smoothed his beard and adjusted the frames on his face. “I love this city; I love a woman in this city. What about you, comrade? What do you love?”
    “The vodka, of course,” Perchik lied.  “Tell me about your love.”
    The man’s gaze shifted from his ink-stained hands to the dancing lamps along the peeling walls.
    “Well, I am no great lover, my friend. I have come to Moscow with a love letter of sorts, hoping I will see its potential realized.”
    “A girl!”
    “No—a real woman of such culture and refinement. She speaks several languages, plays piano. I have, thus far, loved her only through letters—which is how I know she is also a wonderful writer.” His eyes glimmered.
    “I see,” replied Perchik, though he did not.
    “I did not love her at first, you know; it took time.  The feeling was foreign to me, but now, two years later, I cannot help myself! Better late than never, eh, comrade?” He laughed. “Would you believe I used to be a confirmed bachelor?”
    “Ah, my friend.” Perchik chuckled wryly, eyeing the vultures in the corner. “I’m afraid I know all too well about that.”
    “Indeed—as any good young man should. Well, I’ve had many professions in my life. But one role I never expected to play was the romantic lead. I’ve searched all my life for meaningful work. But I have found that love—for a cause, for an art, for another living soul—is purpose enough. I’m so pleased to have discovered that at long last. The heart, you see, is a muscle; if you make no use of it, it atrophies. And I would know,” he finished, smiling broadly. “I’m a doctor.” 

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