Chekhov

A London Summer with Huntley Dent

The Cherry Orchard at The National Theatre

Old shoes re-souled. There's a silent background to The Cherry Orchard for anyone born during the Cold War. The theme of social change, ambiguously written by Chekhov, took on a ferocious literalness after 1917. The niceties of the play are overshadowed by our knowledge of show trials, pogroms, and Soviet monsters to come. With all of that gone up in smoke, we find ourselves starting over. Now the opposite dilemma has appeared: what to do with a Russia sliding into irrelevancy? Putin is barely a mini-me compared to Stalin. The whole society, soaked in vodka and oil revenues, has been drained of significance: terror, class war, an ancien regime, elegiac memories, idealism, and even apparatchiks — all those soulful overtones gone flat-line.
Theater

Uncle Vanya, Maly Theatre, BAM, NYC

Time passes so slowly in the Maly Theater's production of Uncle Vanya, as souls pace the width of a sparse, unforgiving stage, that tensions and grievances dissipate into the ether, or else sink like dead weight. For characters flush with passion on the hottest day of summer, the air is cool and still with inertia. This production bares its soul when it just lets its characters be, enunciating the language, allowing itself to breathe and become suspended in the byt, the banality of everyday existence.
New York Arts

Katona József Theatre, Budapest, at the Lincoln Center Festival: Ivanov by Anton Chekhov

We seem to be enjoying a Chekhov renaissance at the moment. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen all major plays within less than a year, and one of them twice! All of these productions had their flaws and misjudgements, but they were all excellent nonetheless. As a whole, they showed that American and British directors are freeing themselves from tradition and are confident with taking risks in seeking out a harder, more contemporary edge and in exploring Chekhov's evanescent transformations of tragic and comic moments. It is easier to translate words and sentences, even subtle ones, than it is to bring humor into a foreign idiom.
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