Sunday, March 31, 2013

Want Chekhov?

As I skim through the theater listings, I see no Anton Chekhov play in production on the New York City stage. Wait a second, let me double check. No, I don't believe that I see any in the theater listings. But wait another second, there are two productions out there, inspired by the Russian genius - Neva and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Now at the time I am writing this post, Neva is wrapping up its final performance at the Public Theater. So, I'm sorry Chekhovian lovers; if you haven't seen this play by Chilean writer-director Guillermo Calderón yet, then you are probably out of luck. 

Now, I must confess that I was dreadfully bored by most of this dimly lit piece about Chekov's widow Olga Knipper at a theater in St Petersburg for a Cherry Orchard rehearsal with two other actors - Masha and Aleko. As they wait around, they act out all sorts of scenes from their lives including Chekov's death, while a revolution occurs outside.

Roughly two-thirds into the play, I gazed upon the woman sleeping in the seat next to me and then scoped out the exits again wondering if I should attempt to make a quiet getaway. However, I'm glad that I didn't, because the whole experience became worthwhile in the last few minutes of the play -- for Quincy Tyler Bernstine's (Masha) fiery monologue about the world, change, acting, and revolution. These few minutes became one of my most memorable theater experience year to date. Well worth the trip to the East Village on a wintry Sunday evening. 

On a lighter note, theatergoers still have an opportunity to catch Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike on Broadway. When I missed the Christopher Durang comedy at Lincoln Center last season, I was ready to write an updated Ode to the Shows I Missed. So, imagine my joy when I learned that it was transferring to Broadway 

This energetic play starring Sigourney Weaver (Masha), David Hyde Pierce (Vanya) and Kristine Nielson (Sonia) is the funniest thing I've seen on Broadway since The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Aging Vanya and Sonia still live in the family country home wasting away their lives. Their over the top actress sister Masha and her boy-toy returns home. Throw in a soothsayer housekeeper and a costume party and comedy ensues. According to the playwright, the play "takes Chekhov themes and characters and mixes them all up, as if I’ve put them into a comic blender."

David Hyde Pierce, a little hoarse in the show I saw, gives a hilarious rant about the past. This turns out to be the second best monologue I've seen all year.

So theatergoers, not quite Chekhov directly, but you must admit that we got a gut full last season. However, we do see his imprint this season. And better yet, we get two of the best monologues to date.
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2012: Another Year at the Theater

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