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last night's gig

Overheard: What Did You Think of ‘Coast of Utopia’?

More than forty actors. One hundred seventy-seven performances. Nine hours of running time. That's what went into Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy Coast of Utopia — plus thousands of theatergoers who lined up to see a play about ideological backbiting and ragged love affairs among the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia. Last weekend, during the play's final run, we quizzed audience members about its protagonists, Michael Bakunin (played by Ethan Hawke), Theodore Herzen (Brian F. Byrne), and Vissarion Belinsky (Billy Crudup). (Don't worry if you're greener than the group below — before Coast's inevitable Tony nod comes tomorrow, you can check out our cheat sheet here.) —Katie Charles

Josephine Halpert, 61
Yoga instructor, Staten Island

Which character would most want to have a conversation with?
Ethan Hawke’s! He has such a wonderful stage presence. I think he captured his character — and his character was annoying. So there you go.

Mike Engling, 43
Student, Hoboken

Did you do any homework to prepare for the play?
No, but I did see the first two parts back in February. It’s a play about Russian literary figures, and it introduces characters in the way that a Russian novel introduces characters — it’s hard to forget what you never really remembered in the first place!

Jane Zweifer
Publicist

Are there are intellectual circles in the world today like the ones in the play?
There is a great deal of ferment in New York; because [of Iraq] we’re all talking about democracy and human rights. But I think one of those things that has died forever is the idea of regime change, now we know that regime change doesn’t work.

Emma Katz, 23
Intern, Long Island

Did you do any homework before the play?
I got briefed by my dad beforehand. He’s a philosophy professor. I wish I could see it again, because then I'd have more familiarity with all the people. I’d heard of [Russian anarchist] Michael Bakunin before. I read Emma Goldman's biography, and she talks a lot about him. But I hadn’t read his stuff myself.

Jared Frank, 23
Filmmaker, Williamsburg

Samantha Jacobs, 23
Actress and nanny, Williamsburg

Which character would you want to have a conversation with?
Jared: Billy Crudup’s. He’s the most likeable character. Even in basic ways — he’s one of the few characters who isn’t rich. He’s the polar opposite of Ethan Hawke’s character, who always seemed to want to have a good time. Billy Crudup’s character, my heart just goes out to him.

Samantha: We’re in the arts, and we know people who are trust-fund artists. It’s harder being an artist when you don’t have any money; I think that’s why we loved Billy Crudup’s character. Not that we’re saying anything against our friends.