Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ivanov Amazes

The Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre’s Chekhov Celebration continues with the classic Ivanov, Anton Chekhov’s play that explores the meaning of life and love in pre-Revolutionary Russia.  Not nearly as dark as other Russian works, Ivanov is billed as a comedy.  Comedy may be pushing it a little far. Although there were moments of laughter (and indeed, one member of the audience in Saturday evening’s performance erupted into laughter even when the rest of us didn’t find the humor); I would term it a tragi-comedy.

Nike Doukas as Anna seeks solace from David Whalen's Nikolay
Pulling on real life experiences as a doctor and tuberculosis sufferer, Chekhov weaves the story of Nikolay Ivanov, a self-loathing, deeply in debt gentleman farmer whose once-loved yet now disdained wife is suffering from the disease.  He wants to be alone, to read and intellectualize his existence, but his neighbors simply won’t allow it.  While the characters whine about boredom and spend their hours pursuing gluttony, liquor, gossip and card playing as further evidence of their dissipated lives, the audience is reluctantly drawn in to observe his suffering with an interesting mix of tears and laughter.

David Whalen portrays the title character replete with Hamlet-like angst exuding an unexplained grief coupled with frustration and self-hatred.    Selfish to the end, Nikolay finally ends his suffering instead of finding happiness with the young and impressionable Sasha (ingénue Katya Stepanova) on their wedding day.
Martin Giles and Katya Stepanova

Well-staged in The Charity Randall Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial on Pitt’s campus in Oakland, the small platform is transformed  alternatively as an estate garden, an elaborate reception area replete with crystal chandeliers and a well-appointed study.

Tom Stoppard offers this adaptation to modern audiences by brilliantly bringing the dialogue up to current, understandable prose.  The costumes by PICT veteran designer, Pei-Chi Su, evoke the glamour and excess of the Russian elitist society.

l to r:  Alan Stanford, Matt DeCaro, Jonathan Visser, Martin Giles
The supporting cast is strong, with Alan Stanford as the indomitable Count, Megan McDermott as the title seeking, moneyed young widow Marfa, Matt DeCaro as the scheming estate manager Borkin, and Leo Marks as the idealistic (and honest, as he continuously reminded us) doctor who attends the ill-fated Anna Ivanov (Nike Doukas).  Martin Giles, the emasculated chum from University days Pavel Lebedev, offers Nikolay refuge from the stresses of his depressing home life despite his wife Zinaida’s incessant harping on collecting the money owed to them.  Zinaida’s (ably portrayed by veteran Helena Ruoti) acerbic disdain for Ivanov typifies the classes within classes of most elitist societies.

Having seen two of the four offerings in the series, I was entranced by the talent of the cast and their ability to portray lead and supporting roles seamlessly from play to play.  This is no mean feat, considering the length of the monologues and the interleaving timing of the performances.

Ivanov continues for 3 more performances, through August 25th.

Photo Credit:  Suellen Fitzsimmons

Posted on behalf of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates.  Joyce Kane is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Administrative support company, providing virtual office support, personal and executive assistance, creative design services and light bookkeeping.  Cybertary works with businesses and busy individuals to help them work 'on' their business rather than 'in' their business.

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