Plays (Plays, Estonian)
Published by Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2000, pp. 284

Mart Kivastik (1963), belongs to the younger generation of Estonian authors. He has found recognition with two collections of short stories and a short novel, but he has also written film scripts, travel stories and humorously twisted portraits of bohemian figures of culture. His plays, which have been translated and staged in Lithuania as well as in Estonia, have caused a pleasant stir among the audiences in the recent years. Plays, containing five drama texts, earned the author the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s annual drama award.

At first sight, Kivastik’s plays seem to be only about rough humour and no deeper sense, but after getting deeper into them we realise that behind the often loutish behaviour and vulgar language of the characters we can see the author’s defiant tenderness and humanitarian pathos. These texts are the best and most original proof to the actually trivial statement that we come from our childhood and we carry it always with us. The two thirty-year-old characters, two losers form the play ”Peeter and Eerik” meet in a room that reminds us of a Soviet pioneer camp; they talk about J. Verne’s books, eat candy, make some half-hearted efforts on sports, think about their childhood and make something that ”very much resembles a chair” – doing all this as ”not to waste time”. In the end, the old hand Peeter and the newcomer Eerik form a moving male friendship, which is enhanced by romantic music and starry sky.

Kivastik’s other plays are characterised by nostalgic atmosphere too; scanty and slightly old-fashioned attributes seem to fulfil, besides being the signs of the depicted period, also the aim of smart pastiche making. The same stands for ”Happy Birthday, Leena!” (”Õnne, Leena!”), which was given an award, when it was still in the form of a short story. Now it has been rewritten as a play and it has been successfully staged in several theatres. Here a slightly sentimental and kitschy atmosphere takes the reader’s imagination a hundred years back in time. The author follows the spiteful relations of two eighty years old spinsters, getting now and then back into the Baltic-German manor where they had spent their childhood. Differently from the young lady of the manor, who had killed herself, the sisters have not experienced love, and their complexes are followed with a sympathetic smile.

Kivastik often puts his characters into absurd situations, such as in the play ”Our Father Which Art” (”Meie isa, kes sa oled”), where a mad father of a bizarre and non-communicative family has climbed a tree, or in ”Spirit” (”Vaim”), where the city government has mobilised the whole bureaucratic machinery to search for a new city spirit to replace the old one that had died. Love triumphs in this satirical buffo play too, when in the ”happy end” the aspiring spirit marries the mayor’s daughter. In ”Play” (”Näitemäng”), which gets off with the Hollywood-like dynamic action, the main character – a playwright – tumbles into a new situation each time he wakes up from his next dream or coma, until he becomes completely mad. The last and most surprising awakening takes him back to the morning of his fifth birthday, to his happy childhood when he still wanted to become a cosmonaut when a grown-up.

Kivastik’s humanistic sympathy towards losers is attractive and likeable, life sap is pulsating with full excitement and genuineness in his plays.

Text by Janika Kronberg

First published in ELM

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