Polished, professional performances

Gordon Jones
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Kanutu Theatre’s ‘An Evening Inspired by Chekhov’ continues at Barbara Barrett Theatre until Feb. 8

While “Les Miserables” is running on the main stage of the St. John’s Arts and Culture, down below, in the Barbara Barrett Theatre, you can also take in “An Evening Inspired by Chekhov,” consisting of a pair of comic human episodes based on two of Anton Chekhov’s more than 300 short stories, novellas and plays.

Actress and Kanutu Theatre founder Monica Walsh. — Submitted photo

First up is “Afterplay,” shaped for the stage by Brian Friel and directed by Charlie Tomlinson.

In a smart café, a young woman (Sonya, played by Monica Walsh) writes at a paper-strewn table.

Then enters a genial young man (Andrey, played by Brad Hodder), dressed in white tie and tails, carrying a violin case and a bowl of cabbage soup. They fall into conversation.

Sonya manages her father’s estate — not very successfully; while Andrey performs in a symphony orchestra. They share tea and vodka. And they share their stories of life and family.

But their stories are fictions. He plays not in “La Boheme” but in the streets of Moscow. And she too has been fabulising — her step-mother stole and married Sonya’s sweetheart — but she still loves him and will not meet Andrey again.

The offbeat and amusing, hour-long play, shot through with pathos and self-realization, is skilfully and affectingly rendered by Hodder and Walsh.

After a brief break (but no intermission) to re-furnish the stage , the second offering of the evening is “A Reluctant Tragic Hero,” directed by Brad Hodder.

Peacefully reading in his conservatory, Alexey (George Robertson) is interrupted by an angry and agitated Ivan (Bryan Hennessey), who blows his top about how his wife and family exploit and abuse him, like a dumb beast of burden, by imposing on him multiple chores and errands to be discharged when he finishes his boring work in the city and travels encumbered by packages to the summer home in the country.

Robertson listens, stunned to the litany of complaints itemized by comically furious Ivan. A virtuoso performance by Hennessey is received in dead-pan astonishment by Robertson — until Alexey eagerly asks Ivan to carry out a few errands for him.

I confess that I am not a dyed-in-the-wool, fanatical Chekhovista — but there is nothing at all to complain about in the polished production and the professional performance of these two engaging pieces by directors and performers who know what they are about.

On an evening threatening snow, a moderate-sized opening-night audience warmly appreciated the set of two-handers, expertly performed.

The Kanatu Theatre production of “An Evening Inspired by Chekhov” continues its run in the Barbara Barrett Theatre until Feb. 8, with the early curtain time of 7 p.m. (anticipating the 7:30 p.m. main stage start for “Les Mis”) and with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Running time is a brisk 85 minutes.

Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre, Kanutu Theatre, Kanatu Theatre

Geographic location: Moscow

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