Unmistakably, Rezo Gabriadze’s Forbidden Christmas, or the Doctor and the Patient takes the prize for the most inane work to premiere in the Lincoln Center Festival. A flaccid blend of belated anti-Soviet kvetching and the kitschy sentiment of a kiddie-TV Xmas special, it tells of a Russian sailor who, jilted by his girl, develops the delusion that he’s a car. A local doctor attempts to undelude him, with unhappy results that are nullified by the joyful restoration of his insanity at the end. And it’s all linked, somehow, to the USSR’s suppression of Christmas celebrations.
Despite its willed idiocy—and its irrelevance to this country, where political life is rapidly being poisoned by bullying bigots who fraudulently call themselves Christians—Gabriadze’s thin tale doesn’t lack charm in the telling. Using a wide range of resources (puppets, mime, miniatures, animated set pieces) while alternating choreographed and spoken scenes, he creates a string of attractive but slow-moving images that seem in search of a better story to enhance. A gamely pliable cast, headed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jon de Vries, moves through the piece as if they all shared Gabriadze’s faith in the delusional state as something to cherish. No wonder I left wishing I were a tommy gun.