(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
It's not often that we get to see a play by a contemporary Chilean playwright in New York. Now, courtesy of the Public Theater, we can see Guillermo Calderon's absurdist comedy set in early 1905 in St. Petersburg (the one on the Neva River, of course). The woman in black pacing back and forth before the play begins is Olga Knipper (Bianca Amato), star of the Moscow Art Theater and widow of Anton Chekhov. She has accepted a guest role with a theater in Russia's capital and is waiting for a rehearsal to begin. The noble-born Aleko (Luke Robertson) and the revolutionary activist Masha (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) are the only other actors to arrive. The rest of the cast may or may not be victims of the Bloody Sunday riot which is under way. Dissatisfied with her own interpretation of her current role, Olga segues from the monologue in the play to her own monologue about the actor's need for love and acclaim. The border between acting and real life is a porous one. Olga enlists Aleko and Masha to reenact scenes from her life, including different version's of Chekhov's death and his sister's reaction to learning about his impending marriage. Masha closes the play with a showy monologue about the irrelevance of theater in a time of revolution. The play contains many lively, entertaining moments, but at times drifts aimlessly. The playwright directed, which is not always a good idea. The nimble translation is by Andrea Thome, herself a playwright. Susan Hilferty's black costumes blend well into the prevailing murk. No set designer is credited. A fight director, Thomas Schall, is listed although the play contains no fights. Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission.
NOTE: I really dislike attending the Martinson Theater at the Public. Judging from the amount of time it takes to exit the theater and gain access to the only stairway to the street, I would not want to be there in an emergency.