This show has even a more lose connection to the original, than “Onegin”, that this show is a sort of a sequel to. The point of the focus here is not the great poem "Dead Souls" (another highlight of the Russian literature), but rather the story of how, allegedly, Pushkin gave the idea of "Dead Souls" to Gogol (this is a fact that Gogol used to brag about, but also the one that has no other sources to confirm or belie his bragging). Four versions of how that could have happened are presented.
But the show begins with an actor entering the empty stage and realizing that he is the only one of the company to actually be here... the others for some reasons haven't made it. So, after some contemplation, he calls out whoever is at the theater at the moment to help him get on with the show, and of most help to him are the cleaning lady, the accountant and the maintenance manager looking somewhat familiar with the fake whiskers on. And then the sole actor himself gets into the revised character from “Onegin” to be the person to try and make the show happen with what limited resources he has at the moment.
The first version of the incident is very simple: Gogol stole the idea from Pushkin. It is enacted very simply, lightly in the style of a street theater.
As the story sets off, we find out that there happens to be among us the director of the greatest theatre archive ever to appear in the human history: the famous Bakhrushin State Theater Museum, Dmitry Rodionov himself. And incidentally, he happens to have with him the original skull of the great writer (as famously it was stolen from the grave, the story has it). And not just one, but two originals. Both certified. Also, as we find out later in the story, the tombstone that was left after Gogol was reburied (yes, his afterlife was a big mess, too), was then of some good use to the widow of another outstanding Russian writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, for their gravely purpose.
Back to the main theme. The other versions are not that simple and get more and more bizarre as the show develops. But Gogol himself was the kind of bizarre person that has this presence of... Well, something weird about him wherever we come across the great writer's shadow.
As the versions of the story are told, the characters are dwelling on the concept of borrowing and taking. If you don't ask - you steal. But if you ask and there is no answer? Can that silence be treated as a 'Yes'? What if before you take what you want you ask the question "Can I?" very silently and when there is no one around to hear it? Can the following silence then be treated as consent? The story gets more and more detours as it develops. At some point we even meet Dmitry Krymov himself recalling an episode from the past to add some additional touches to the issue.
Now, to get closer to the point:
Version 2. Gogol gets a blessing from Pushkin to write the Dead Souls while he meets him and his wife Natalia are entering the church.
Version 3. Gogol meets the Pushkin family strolling along the Tverskoy Blvd. with the three kids (Gogol lurking among the trees, stalking the favorite poet). Oh, by the way, the news of Pushkin's death was devastating for Gogol. "For whom will I write now?!" he shouts bursting into tears upon finding out the news.
Version 4. Gogol gets the idea of the poem at the "farewell" dinner at Pushkin's place, just before the poet leaves for the duel that will turn out to be his last. At this stage Pushkin is very irritated at the state of his life, at his wife, quoting the famous letter that he wrote to her. Meanwhile the capricious and goody-goody Natalia makes Gogol, who comes to visit the good friend, some cold pasta (luckily cold it the way he loves it) and asks Pushkin to fix one of the kids’ kickboard on his way to the duel. Off he goes. Never to return. Before his departure, though, he suggests Gogol to write something about the real life and its vices, in all the gruesome details, how all people do here is drink and deal, and and one is riding aroung trying to buy everyone else's dead souls on the cheap: "just place the figures and watch them come to life".
Then we see Gogol creating the poem, still next to the pasta plate, and the toy troika soaring up into the sky as he reads the famous passage from "Dead Souls" about Russia riding for a fall. Numerous Gogols appear, their dramatic singing hints towards the inevitable tragic outcome.