I love theatre. You probably know or could certainly guess that I’m a proud theatre geek. But that doesn’t mean I want to see everything that is out there. I get really excited in anticipation of some shows, am neutral about others… and occasionally I drag my feet.
I must admit was feeling a little draggy as I walked up to the Antaeus Theatre to see Three Days in the Country. I love me some classic plays from time to time but I wasn’t feeling optimistic about an adaptation of a Russian play (Turgenev’s A Month in the Country) even if it’s rumored to be the play that inspired Chekhov to write for the theatre. It’s still an adaptation to a Russian play.
I understand I owe a great deal of thanks to Patrick Marber. He is the gentleman who adapted the four and a half hour original that the playwright himself deemed “unplayable” to a just under two and a half hour delight. Yes, you read that right, I just called this show a delight, much to my surprise. I shouldn’t be so pessimistic. Especially when I am putting myself into a seat at the Antaeus Theatre. They simply rarely go wrong.
Even though I was surprised and delighted, the given circumstances are what you think they would be. There is a large cast of characters that find themselves drawn (or stuck) to a home in the country. There are the unhappy upper class (for various reasons) heads of the household and family, the middle class doctor/professor sorts, and of course the saucy lower class servants. Some upstairs/downstairs, sure, but it’s just sprinkled throughout. This play is about isn’t about class, it’s about LOVE. The twist? There are an astonishingly high percent of characters who are in love with entirely the wrong person. Fun, right? Well, in this case it is.
My hunch is that few LA theatres could pull off this “fun” successfully. The size of the ensemble alone would make it impossible for most to mount and although the adaptation is good… I’d say the success lies much in the hands of the director and actors. The Antaeus theatre has a nice bunch of really talented people, especially able with the classics, from which to draw. I feel especially fortunate because the cast of the performance I attended was “the blunderers” (Antaeus has two complete casts for each show, which alternate performing) which meant that Nike Doukas (wife, Natalya) and Leo Marks (old friend, Rakitin) carried a heavy load of the play. Hallelujah!
So the lady of the estate finds herself in love with her son’s young tutor (Peter Mendoza) and there’s no big surprise that her ward, Vera (Jeanne Syquia) is too. The tutor is a strapping, hunky guy after all. And the play was originally meant to be called The Tutor and Two Woman. So yes, we got that. But that’s not nearly all the love in the air. The man of the house (Antonio Jaramillo) has been distracted, apparently for years, with his property and maintaining the estate, and his longtime friend has been in love with his wife for years and years. She is entertained by him but does not return the infatuation. But YAY for Nike and Leo with so much stage time! The doctor (Aarmin Shimerman) proposes marriage to the on sight piano teacher (Lily Knight) and has a debilitating and hilarious back seizure in the process. She declines the offer stating that her unhappiness was fine, but adding his would be an unwise addition to her life. The servant was sleeping with the Tutor (yes, he really was something) and while another servant was devastated at her rejection. Oh, and an old, wealthy land owner neighbor, asked for the young lovely ward’s hand in marriage. Yes, lots of love. Mostly, if not all, unrequited. And if I have neglected to mention, plenty of doses of hilarity throughout.
So often, it’s easy to get bored with these sorts of plays because people just sit around and talk and nothing really happens. That isn’t so much the case here and I’d say thanks again to Mr. Marber, but I’d also tip my hat to the director, Andrew Paul. I’m sure he had a heavy hand in keeping the scales tipped toward delight vs. drudgery. It certainly clipped along.
The singing of a few Russian songs, I could have done without. But if that’s all I have to complain about, then we are doin’ alright. I laughed. I enjoyed. You will too.
Three Days in the Country – Antaeus Theatre
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 E. Broadway, Glendale CA
8 pm Mondays, Fridays & Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays.
Ends Aug. 26
$30-$34 (tix on discount sites)
818- 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
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