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United Players of
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
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
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
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
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.