Ivan Vyrypaev (b. 1974), one of the most influential and multi-award-winning contemporary Russian playwrights, screenwriters and directors, equally present in the art world of film and theatre, draws inspiration from a plethora of metaphysical questions he poses to his protagonists, which he deftly weaves into witty dialogue and situations, indicating a congenial artistic kinship with yet another great Russian auteur, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Vyrypaev’s creative universe could be placed somewhere between the bloody and comic bluntness of Quentin Tarantino and the visual poetics of Andrei Tarkovsky, where black humour, wit, cruelty, spirituality, mysticism and metaphysics spontaneously collide. It is therefore not surprising that his dramas address most of the questions of contemporary man, who more or less inadvertently but most certainly approaches the “abyss”, and consequently depict man’s relationship to his neighbour, the Other, the world around him and ultimately to God and existence as such.
Vyrypaev’s 2012 comedy Drunks, commissioned by the Düsseldorf Theatre (Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus) and premiered in 2014, is also, in the author’s opinion, one of his best stage works. In her article entitled Everyone Drinks in Their Own Way, Ana Geršak points out that the narrative of Drunks “seems at first to be structurally divided into two mirror-image halves (the part and its counterpart), with the first part of the drama revealing the fissures that are to be acknowledged and reflected upon by the counterpart, but without being fully resolved. The conflict thus remains open, and the denouement will not become apparent until long after the curtainfall. Fourteen characters appear in the play, most of whom belong to the affluent middle class, each in their own right and immersed in their own choreography of drunkenness, and who never actually meet on stage. /…/ The characters who created a kind of connection between the rifts in the first part of the play are woven into new constellations in the second part. They never all meet at once, but seem like fragments of a life much larger than themselves, of something that transcends them all, while outlining a simple series of snippets of an everyday life …”
While the author himself assumes that everyone in the play is drunk from beginning to end and that the characters talk about things, sometimes important social issues, that they are not fully aware of, although they can be fully grasped by the audience, the dramaturg of the Maribor production of Drunks, Miklós H. Vecsei, takes the opposite position, explaining that the director Attila Vidnyánszki Jr. and he have decided that it is not the characters who are drunk, but the audience: “For this reason, we started to see the play through the eyes of an imaginary drunk spectator who is gradually sobering up through the plot and realises how his life has gone so far, and finally grasps the truth by seeing clearly what is missing. /…/ Vyrypaev’s play Drunks thus offers us a view through the keyhole, an outside perspective on our own path, and we can then decide where to stop.”
Fran Žižek Hall