Based on a short story by Anton Chekhov, “The Lady with the Lap Dog” is a one-act play for two actors (and a dog), adapted for the stage by Andy Jones, recounting an adulterous affair between a middle-aged banker and a married woman young enough to be his daughter.
They first meet in the Crimean resort of Yalta, where both are vacationing without their spouses. A holiday romance ensues.
The holiday ends, as holidays will, and Dmitri and Anna return to their homes in separate cities. However, he is unable to get her out of his imagination. Tormented by desire, he tracks her down and they resume their affair with secretive rendezvous in Moscow, but uncertain about how things will turn out.
So much for Chekhov.
Andy Jones’ free-hand, but sympathetic redaction starts in the middle of Chekhov’s story, re-sequencing and reinterpreting the original, so that an indeterminate adulterous affair becomes a long-term, unconsummated romance.
Chekhov’s banker is translated into a distinguished doctor. And the young wife is given an afterlife as a university student, who ultimately becomes a doctor herself.
Jones’ version is more comic, more tongue-in-cheek, than Chekhov’s; but it also has more passionately emotional riffs, with the final scene being a reflective, upbeat, if over-wordy reprise on the significance of the long relationship, resulting in a play more conclusive than the indeterminacy of Chekhov’s closure.
Jones’ version is more tonally varied than the original, treated as a poignant memory play — and I must confess that I enjoyed Jones’ version more than the original.
Monica Walsh is luminous as the young married woman, while Steve Lush is convincing and focussed as the courtly and old-fashioned man of the world, with flashes of passion.
The production is delightful to watch and listen to, with sophisticated music and chiaroscuro lighting cues, together with elegant and eloquent performance by the two principals.
Directed by Charlie Tomlinson for Kanutu Theatre, “The Lady with the Lap Dog” continues its run in the Barbara Barrett Theatre until Feb. 2, with the early curtain time of 7 p.m., and a final matinee at 2 p.m. Feb. 3.
And, if you have a yen for more Chekhov, after a quick set-change, there is a reading of a second Chekhov story, an amuse-bouche entitled “A Drama,” developed and delivered by Bryan Hennessey and Monica Walsh.
The work-in-progress describes how an impatient and dyspeptic playwright (Hennessey) is pursued and driven to distraction by a wannabee playwright and groupie (Walsh), who has perpetrated a cliche-ridden, five-act play that she insists on reading to him.
It makes for a lively and amusing 15-minute episode with a neat punch-line.
Admission to this two-part Chekhovian evening is $20 ($15 for seniors, students and artists).
Starting at 7 p.m., it ends at 8 p.m., so that sound from the main-stage production does not obtrude and you can even take in Revue 2012 immediately after Chekhov.