Rocky Mountain News
May 4, 2001

Montana makes stunning stage

On children's video

How Much Land Does a Man Need

GlobalStage Productions
Length: 40 minutes
Price: $27, VHS; to order,
(888) 324-5623 or

This latest GlobalStage theater production is shot on the wide-open stage of the vast Montana prairie. Surprisingly, the actors hold their own against this breathtaking scenery, creating strong, humorous characters to tell this timeless story of the folly of greed.

How Much Land Does a Man Need is a well-crafted adaptation of a short story by 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. The story follows the life of a poor, hard-working sharecropper, Buck, who dreams of becoming a successful farmer of his own land. Buck is accompanied in his quest for wealth by a sprightly narrator, who gives the tale its cohesiveness as Buck's ambitions run amok.

Through a little creative financing and lots of hard work, Buck and his wife acquire their first 40 acres and make a satisfying life for themselves as small farmers. But, hearing of better land to be had, they sell everything and buy a larger, more prosperous ranch. Buck's wife is content to stay put, but her husband, believing that even greater riches can be found elsewhere, sells his half of their holdings and strikes out alone, aiming to become the wealthiest landowner in the country.

Soon, Buck arrives in the land of the Bashkirs, a nomadic band of women on horseback who freely roam the lush terrain. He strikes a deal with them: For only $1,000, Buck can own all the land he's able to walk in a day. Starting off the next morning, the greedy Buck pushes himself to cover more and more distance so that his parcel will include the outcropping of trees, the river and whatever else falls within his gaze. After he barely makes it back to the starting point as the sun sets, the price he pays for his overly ambitious purchase is far higher than he'd bargained for.

While my fourth-grader balks at GlobalStage's use of two characters -- "theatergoers" -- to introduce each play and discuss it afterward, the device helps to distinguish the theater piece from a screenplay. Despite some contrivances to bring theater to video, GlobalStage has managed to create a visually stunning and vividly wrought production that invites its audience to examine an important issue in our consumer-driven, materialistic world. For ages 8 and up. Grade: A