Sunday, February 4, 2018

Margin Notes: The Chekhov Dreams

Elizabeth Inghram and Dana Watkins as Kate and Jeremy.
Photo by Arin Sang-urai.

Seen on: Friday, 2/02/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
Jeremy, still deeply depressed three years after the death of his fiancee, is reclusive, sleeping all the time, and blocked on writing his modern-day fairy tale novella. Forcibly shaken from his routine by his party-hard brother Eddie, Jeremy joins an acting class and begins work on a scene from The Seagull with classmate Chrissy, only to find that his dreams are no longer haunted solely by the spectre of Kate - there's a long-dead Russian playwright paying him visits as well.

What I Knew Beforehand
Next to nothing. Well, I suppose I knew enough of Chekhov's theatrical canon to have an opinion while Jeremy and Chrissy debated his merits.


Play: I definitely had my trepidations based on the title alone - I, like Jeremy, am not overly in love with the plays of Chekhov. But this turned out to be quite a charming romantic comedy with a twist. There are things I could pick apart - a somewhat inconsistent engagement with mental illness, or how the women still rather felt like props to the male narrative - but these are things which came up more for me after the show rather than during it. During the show, I was engaged and amused, laughing and investing in the characters on their journey, frequently questioning - and changing my mind just as frequently - what Kate's true agenda might be, and whether she was a true ghost visiting, or a manifestation of Jeremy's grief and broken psyche. That line of tension can be hard to maintain, but this production pulled it off winningly, and even made me consider giving Chekhov another try.

Cast: The ensemble here is terrific. As Jeremy, Dana Watkins brings an affable and awkward charm to a man teetering between rejuvenation and self-immolation. Elizabeth Inghram has a sparkling detachment as his dead fiancee Kate, subtly layering playfulness with manipulation, so that we're never quite sure if she's our ally or our enemy. Charlotte Stoiber's Chrissy is engagingly earnest with her wide-eyed view that the world can't be nearly as bad as Jeremy seems to think. As Jeremy's boozing and partying brother Eddie, Christian Ryan has the best lines in the show, and he delivers them with a light touch, finding the vulnerability under the bravado. And Rik Walter's Chekhov, obsessed with American's colorful curses, makes a hilarious cameo in Jeremy's psyche.

Design: Scott Aronow's set is as pleasingly authentic as it is malleable - corners and shelves stacked with books and bric-a-brac, but those very walls can be pulled back to reveal an ethereal lake in Jeremy's dreamscape, illuminated delicately (and playfully) by Diana Duecker's lighting. Christina Giannini's costumes start off straightforward, but as the fantasies of Kate start to dominate the narrative, they grow delightfully ornate - from a sparkly circus costume to Arkadina with hat and veil, to (perhaps) Jeremy's Snow Queen.


Running: Now playing at The Beckett Theatre (Theatre Row) - Opening: February 3, 2018. Closing: February 17, 2018.
Category: straight play
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: John McKinney
Director: Leslie Kincaid Burby
Designers: Scott Aronow (Set), Christina Giannini (Costume), Diana Duecker (Lighting), John McKinney (Sound).
Cast: Dana Watkins, Elizabeth Inghram, Charlotte Stoiber, Christian Ryan, Rik Walter.

Elizabeth Inghram, Dana Watkins, and Charlotte Stoiber as Kate, Jeremy,
and Chrissy. Photo by Arin Sang-urai.

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