Theater Review: Chekov's Two shorts and a cat

Two shorts and a cat By Anton Chekhov, Directed by Gita Munte, Khan Theater, July 7

July 13, 2013 23:02
1 minute read.
Teo Shorts and a Cat

Two Shorts and a Cat370. (photo credit: Gerard Allon)

Let’s start with the good stuff. First we have two of Chekhov’s best known short plays, The Proposal and The Bear, separated by In the Spring, a mischievous monologue on the love life of a cat. We have Polina Adamov’s indoor/outdoor set that combines birches – of course – with a balustrade, a wall of windows and bits of furniture. We have her excellent costumes that illustrate the-then Russia’s mix of progress and peasant.

We have Roi Hen’s vigorous translation from the Russian that is witty, sharp and bright. I wish that were true of the production.

It seems that the creators were so intent on Significance, on the layers of meaning within the text that they forgot to have fun. All three Chekhovs on offer are mini-farces – he called them vaudevilles – whose purpose is to amuse. Yes, even a Chekhov farce is emotionally and psychologically rich but we can be trusted to “get it.” We don’t need to belabor the material. We need to enable it to speak for itself.

The Proposal concerns provincial landowner Stepan Chubokov (Yehoyachin Friedlander), his daughter Natalaya (Yael Tokar) and their hypochondriac neighbor, Ivan Lomov (Yoav Heyman). Lomov wants to marry Natalya but when the couple is left alone, all they do is fight, about meadows, about hunting dogs. Finally, exasperated Papa tells them to get on with it, for goodness’ sake! Friedlander, who’s effective in both roles, also plays the old servant, Louka, in The Bear. The Bear in question, and the epithets do fly in this one, is Grigori Smirnov (Dudu Ben- Ze’ev), another provincial landowner who’s come to collect a debt from newly widowed Elena Popova, played with a neatly nutty nerviness by Irit Pashtan. She refuses to pay. He yells and threatens, challenges her to a duel, and realizes he’s in love. Forget the duel! These are all good actors, as is young Ariel Wolf whose puss is properly catty, but they’re working too hard. All of them. And why does Puss lurk throughout, like a Russian leprechaun? It’s superfluous, and in Chekhov especially, less is always more.

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