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United Players of Vancouver


by Anton Chekhov

Witty and Entertaining Script

by Jane Penistan

Michael Frayn's translation and adaptation of Anton Chekhov's posthumously discovered play is an unfinished play of the author, according to the Oxford dictionary. However, the programme notes of the United Players do not say by whom the text used is completed; only the author of the translation and its adaptation.

This is a witty and entertaining script. The bitterness between the landed gentry and the peasantry, and the extravagance of the elite and its consequent impending bankruptcy are less obvious here than in other Chekhov plays, though the sense of impending dissolution of the present regime still underlies the apparently happy summer of Anya Petrovna and her family friends and relations.

The centre of this pleasant company is Platonov, beloved by women, envied and distrusted by men, and a charmer of women to none of whom he is constant. Women of all ages succumb to his charms and endeavour to seduce him.

While Platonov's wife adores him and he tries to settle down into wedded bliss, his roving nature and the attraction of other women overwhelm him. Yet he is not happy in this state. He does not revel in his conquests as Don Giovanni does. Rather he is torn apart by them and by the women whom he attracts as bees to honey.

Anya Petrovna, played by Andree Karas, is the grande dame of the estate where members of her family and her friends are returning to spend an idyllic rural summer. While she does dominate initially, she has not quite the authority and elegance the role demands. She is much more successful in her seduction scene with her younger lover, Platonov.

Platonov (Alexander Williams) sustains his character well, changing from the dutiful spouse endeavouring unsuccessfully to antagonize his former lovers, to the passionate Don Juan, to the distraught and guilt ridden husband who must destroy himself. This is a well sustained performance, the central character of the drama who keeps the cast together and varies each of his scenes with other members appropriately. His final disintegration is believable.

As his once adolescent. but now happily married girl friend, Sofya, Marianne Sawchuk is an enchanting woman. Obviously in love with her husband, Sergey Pavlovich (Peter Jahutka}. Platonov succeeds in arousing in her the youthful passion they both once enjoyed. As his long suffering but loving wife, Lara Rose Tansey, turns in a creditable performance, though sometimes over hysterical. Mische Neumann, as Grekova, reveals her well concealed burning love.

Among the men, Derek Carr's Semyonovich is a beautifully managed characterization. The intoxication scenes with Colonel Triletsky, (John Munroe), his son, Dr. Triletsky (James Milvain) and John Burnside as Gerasim Kuzmich, tend to be a little prolonged, though providing plenty of humorous light relief in a play that is becoming bleaker as it progresses.

Osip (Igor Ingelsman) is the peasant who intrudes into the genteel menage of the aristocratic summer retreat, foreboding the stormy decline of the landed gentry, as the intense thunderstorm breaks up their idyllic existence. Marko (Patrick Bahrich) the government messenger, delivers both pleasant and unpleasant missives with the same cheerful, philosophical, and not too deprecating manner, while Donald N. Frith plays an unobtrusive but watchful servant, Vasily.

This is a long play and unfortunately, the pace and energy of the first act flagged in the second half.

This large cast is well directed by Irena Trouchenko, who brings a truly Russian atmosphere to the play. The accompanying music is Scriabin's Le Poeme De l'Extase The composer is a contemporary of Chekhov, and this adaptation subtly added uncertainty to the turn of the century . The back drop of trees and the immaculately managed lighting are magical at times, while the fireworks are brilliant and the advancing train terrifying.

The set, lighting and sound designers, Adam Parboosingh and Darren W. Hales, deserve high praise for their immense contribution to this production. This is a brave effort by UP with a difficult, but well written and constructed play. Congratulations to the company for including it in their well -balanced season's programme.

Wild Honey runs Thursday through Sunday, February 2nd - 25th, 2001, at 8 p.m. at Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery and N.W. Marine. Tickets $10.00/8.00 Thursday and Sunday, $12,00 / $10.00 Friday and Saturday, available at the door, or telephone 224 - 8007 for reservations and more information.

Still to come this season If We Are Women, by Joanna McCleland Glass, April 06 - April 29th and Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, June 1st - June 24th.

Next season's offerings will be, The Countess, by Gregory Murphy, September 7th - 30th. Dog in a Manger, by Lope de Vega, November116th - December 6th. Medea, by Euripides, February 4th - 24th, 2002, Tartuffe by Moliere, April 5th - 28th, The Queens by Normand Chaurette, June 7th - 30th.

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