Chekhov Comedies**** (St James Studio, 11 September 2013)

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Getting bored with salads, sandwiches and sushi? Maybe it’s time to invigorate lunch breaks with a little Chekhov. Not an obvious choice, as the great chronicler of the declining days of the privileged classes in pre-Revolutionary Russia may well be thought to have become something of a bore himself, with just five plays being revived perennially on our main stages. So it comes as a pleasant surprise to be reminded that he wrote other things and that a Chekhov comedy can actually be very funny. Presented by the Butterfly Theatre Company, this short production, targeting workers in their lunch hours, brings together two battle of the sexes comedies lasting around 20 minutes each. The Proposal sees a young landowner (Matthew McPherson) calling upon the daughter of another (Nadia Hynes), very nervously, to propose marriage, only to get tangled up in disputes about a worthless piece of land and the relative merits of their family dogs. In The Bear, another landowner (Gary Sefton) visits a grieving young widow (Caroline Colomel) to collect an overdue debt and, when prompt payment is refused, he finds himself forming an attraction to the lady. Jestyn Phillips provides admirable support in both plays. The comedies are performed in a boisterous style, not normally associated with the melancholic mood of Chekhov’s more famous plays. In both, the male leads give physically comic performances, bordering on slapstick, whilst their female opposites are feisty and shrewish. The format of these snappy plays could well be regarded as a prototype for some episodes of superior American television sitcoms. They are small, perfectly formed and not a second too long.

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