Onegin and Tatyana in Odessa is a two-act play for four women and three men with two women and two men playing several roles. The unit set represents a spa in Odessa in the early 1840s, a Russian countryside estate in the 1820s, and a St Petersburg residence in the mid-1820s. Curved steps lead down from UL and UR balconies which are connected by a curved footbridge. Bookshelves are under the balcony and left staircase with a sofa and some chairs LC. Under the footbridge a window with a window seat and DR the garden with trellised rose bower and wooden seat. DL a writing table with chairs.
We hear Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor, Opus 68, #2, as lights come up on Tatyana on the UL balcony and Onegin appears at a little distance from her. Lensky enters DR and looks at Olga sitting on the LC sofa. Zaretsky and Mama appear on the UR balcony and come down the stairs chatting quietly to join Nurse and The Prince. The four make their way off as the scene progresses and the music fades. Onegin tells Tatyana that she hasn’t changed but she doesn’t recognize him and says he is probably thinking about the person he murdered. He descends the left staircase to talk with Lensky as the action moves back in time twenty years or more. Onegin says he inherited the country estate from his uncle. Lensky says he visits because Onegin has so many wonderful books and quotes a Byron poem, adding that he is permanently in love. Onegin talks about his friend Pushkin having a thing about women’s feet and asks Lensky what goddess he is worshiping. We hear Mama’s voice calling Olga as Lensky shows Onegin a picture of her, telling him they played together as children and inviting him to visit the family with him.
Time and place shift as Onegin and Tatyana talk of their first meeting and Lensky reads a book. Nurse enters, telling a story about a rusalka, and then Mama tells Tatyana about being forced to marry and Olga says that perhaps Lensky’s friend will find Tatyana attractive. Lensky puts down his book and he and Onegin arrive at the Larin house. Lensky resumes reading as Onegin and Tatyana talk about their first meeting. Tatyana says that she loved the horrifying stories her Nurse told her. Nurse enters telling a story about the rusalka, a drowned girl who drowns young men in her hair and then laughs and laughs. Tatyana says her mother didn’t want her to read and told her that she married the man she was told to and when she had the two girls she was too busy to think about love. Onegin says he likes Lensky’s innocence and feels protective of him, then moves to one of the two wooden chairs DL to join Lensky as they return home at midnight in a carriage. Lensky says that he loves and respects Olga but Onegin says he is attracted to Tatyana.
Lights fade on them and come up on the sisters. Tatyana says she is attracted to Onegin and Olga suggests she write a letter to him. Nurse tells the girls it is time for bed and Olga goes off. Tatyana asks the Nurse to tell her a story because she isn’t sick but in love. As they talk, Lensky leaves and Tatyana asks the Nurse for pen and paper so she can write a letter to Onegin. She makes the Nurse promise that she will have her grandson deliver the letter. As Tatyana writes, Lensky enters and gives the letter to Onegin who is reading in his study. He opens the letter and Tatyana speaks aloud what she has written to him. She says that she belongs to him and, after Lensky leaves, Onegin speaks of Tatyana and love as she sits writing in the moonlight. He folds the letter, puts it in his pocket, and goes.
In the garden (DR) Tatyana speaks of waiting to hear from Onegin until Olga rushes in saying that Lensky has arrived, saying that Onegin has been detained. Olga runs off, giggling, and Lensky chases after her. Tatyana thinks she hears a horse and sees Onegin from the window. He enters and she has difficulty speaking coherently. Onegin says he will try to be honest with her and that usually he plays games with women. But if he had any desire to marry and have children, it would be with her, although he is not worthy of her and would make her miserable. She leaves and Lensky appears and invites Onegin to come with him to Tatyana’s name-day party. Tatyana appears in the UL balcony (Odessa) and tells Onegin her dream about a bear carrying her into a hut where she sees monsters sitting around a table. As she speaks we hear the sounds she describes—dog barking, rooster crowing, goat neighing, bones rattling, pig squealing, bird squawking, goose honking, and a stringed instrument playing the folk song ‘Kalinka.’ Onegin is in charge of the monsters and, in her dream, moves to her when she opens the door. The monsters scream MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE, but when Onegin shouts MINE there is instant silence. Tatyana says the monsters vanish and she and Onegin are alone when Olga and Lensky run in. They kiss and. angry, still in the dream, Onegin stabs Lensky and Olga screams. Tatyana says she woke from the dream shaking in terror. Onegin asks who she saw in her dream and she says she saw nobody as the lights fade and go out, ending the first act.
We hear the Chopin Mazurka as lights come up on Tatyana and Olga with Onegin in shadows. Nurse comes in and tells Tatyana she needs to stop dreaming and start eating. She says Olga has found a nice young man and it’s time Tatyana got married. Nurse leaves and Olga tells Tatyana that Lensky said that Onegin will be coming to Tatyana’s name-day party. Onegin and Lensky enter. Onegin asks Olga to dance and they move into the shadows and then back into the light Olga says she wants to do it again and she and Onegin whirl off into the shadows. Tatyana says, “No,” when Lensky asks her if she wants to dance. Olga and Onegin return and then dance off again. Tatyana says she will dance with Lensky but he says he doesn’t feel well and leaves. Tatyana and then Olga follow him.
We hear morning birdsong and pounding on a door as Onegin lets Zaretsky in. He hands Onegin a note in which Lensky challenges him to a duel. Lensky feels that Onegin insulted his honor by dancing with Olga. Onegin says he was trying to teach Lensky a lesson about women and asks Zaretsky if he can persuade Lensky to forget this nonsense. Zaretsky says he tried but Lensky wants to meet Onegin tomorrow morning by the mill. Zaretsky and Onegin drink from a flask as Lensky and Olga talk about her dancing. They go off DR as Tatyana watches from the balcony and asks Onegin why he danced with her sister all night. He says he was teaching Tatyana not to trust men. We hear birdsong as Onegin joins Zaretsky and Lensky at the mill. Zaretsky says he will be a second for both men and opens a box with two guns. Onegin picks his, then Lensky, and Zaretsky has them stand back to back and counts to thirty-two as the men walk off DR and DL. In the silence we hear a loud gun shot and the sounds of crows cawing and flapping away. Zaretsky looks DL and DR and walks off DR. Onegin comes back from DL and Zaretsky returns to say that Lensky is dead, shot through the heart. He takes the gun from Onegin and goes off DR. Tatyana, from the balcony, asks Onegin who fired first. Onegin says he did and remarks that his “ugly little friend Pushkin,” who joked about writing a poem about Onegin, also died in a duel over a woman. Tatyana says that Olga married an officer not long after Lensky’s death. Tatyana says she used to visit Onegin’s library after Onegin ran off, and then her mother took her to Moscow to find her a husband. Onegin says he went back to St. Petersburg and attended a ball where he saw a woman who looked very much like Tatyana. We hear the sound of the Chopin Mazurka as guests at The Prince’s ball move back and forth on the stage. The Prince tells Onegin that Tatyana is his wife. The Prince leaves and Onegin tells Tatyana that her husband used to bully him at school The Prince returns, suggests that Onegin see a doctor, and goes off to see to his guests. Onegin asks Tatyana why she married such a blockhead. She says she has learned to play a part and pulls away from Onegin when he tries to touch her, asking him what he wants. He says he doesn’t know and she moves into the shadows, her back to Onegin. He speaks to her about falling in love with her and writing her a passionate letter. She goes to the table, picks up the letter, sits on the sofa and begins to read as Onegin speaks the letter. He says he lost everything that mattered to him. When the first letter got no response, he wrote her a second, and a third, dreaming about her looking at the moon. He decided he had to see her and went to her house. She asks what he wants and he says he doesn’t feel well and falls to his knees. He cries, saying he is sorry, but she tells him to get up and stop blubbering. She says that when they met in the garden he gave her a lecture about how good it was of him to not take advantage of her. She says she would give up all her money and power to be back in the garden. She says she loves him but she will never betray her husband. She leaves and Onegin tells The Prince that he is going on a journey “somewhere else.”
Tatyana appears on the UL balcony and tells Onegin that it was all a long time ago. He says that she humiliated him out of revenge and, since they are even, they can start over. He tries to explain why he shot Lensky, and says she is the only person he has ever loved. Tatyana says she will give him another chance but Onegin says he has to go. Tatyana says that he just needed to win the game, to get her to admit she still wanted him so he could humiliate her the way she humiliated him. She says she really pities him and goes. Onegin wonders why he rejected her and says that he will never know. He says he thought of publishing some of Lensky’s poems as an act of penance, but the poems are “just terrible.”