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A CurtainUp Review
2002 Chekhov Now Festival
"The Lady with the Dog" and "Rothschild's Fiddle"

by Les Gutman

This is a tale of two short stories, both penned by Chekhov, that have been adapted into one-act plays for this, the 4th Annual Chekhov Now Festival. The longer story ("The Lady with the Dog") has become the shorter play; the shorter story ("Rothschild's Fiddle") is far more successfully transformed.

Adapting prose to the stage is a perilous undertaking, but some works are more naturally suitable. "The Lady with the Dog" is not, it would seem, one of them. For starters, it's not a story with a great deal of weight. Alone on a holiday in Yalta, Dmitri (Flavio Romeo) spots Anna (Jen Daum), also alone, except for her little dog. They meet, they sleep together, she's guilty (she is married), they stroll, she returns to Saint Petersburg, he returns to Moscow, he goes to Saint Petersburg, they meet again, she's unhappy, they can't stop thinking about each other, she visits him in Moscow, they must figure something out. And that's about it.

Peter Campbell, who adapts as well as directs this piece, lets the action play out in a large number of very short scenes. His script relies heavily on the dialogue in Chekhov's story without the embellishment of its more fulfilling narrative, either in words or action. To be fair, the original source material is little more than a trifle, but the result here is a particularly empty exercise.

"Rothschild's Fiddle" is a story of more substance and is skillfully adapted by Judythe Cohen so as to convey both its sense and its moral most effectively. Yakov (Tom Ligon) is an unpleasant, dyspeptic carpenter living a peasant's life with his wife Marfa (Elizabeth Mutton) in a small Russian village. He earns his meager living building coffins, supplemented on occasion by playing the fiddle in a Jewish band. He spends his free time disparaging his wife, hating the Jews (and especially a flute player named Rothschild (Amalie Ceen)) and keeping track of his losses -- by which he means the money he didn't make because of lost opportunities.

Alone in the world after Marfa gets sick and dies, and as his own end approaches, he comes to reflect on his life, his behavior and the more important losses they precipitated. The dying man finds reconciliation, and offers penance. Here, Chekhov not only tells a moving story, he also finds time to weigh in on two of his favorite subjects: feckless doctors and irresponsible disregard for the environment. Adam Melnick's direction finds the proper mournful tone, but still manages to enliven things with music. The cast is quite convincing, Tom Ligon most especially so.

Moscow at the 2002 Chekhov Now Festival
Gull at the 2000 Chekhov Now Festival
NOTE: This production of Gull is making a re-appearance at this year's festival.
AuNT Vanya and Uncle Vanya at the 2001 Chekhov Now Festival
CurtainUp's Playwright Album on Chekhov, including links to other reviews and other background material

The Lady with the Dog
by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Peter Campbell
with Flavio Romeo and Jen Daum
Rothschild's Fiddle
by Anton Chekhov
Adapted by Judythe Cohen
Directed by Adam Melnick
with Sara Buffamanti, Amalie Ceen, Andrew Garman, Tom Ligon and Elizabeth Mutton
Violinist: David Kornhaber
Composer: Ann Warren
Costumes: Nadia Fadeeva

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
A production of LITE Company
Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street (Avs A/B)
Telephone: (212) 414-7773
Festival website: Additional performances of this entry in the festival are Nov 7 @8, Nov 10 @5, Nov 16 @10, Nov 18 @8 and Nov 22 @ 8. Other festival events are scheduled through Nov 22. For details, see the festival website. $15, $12 for seniors and students.
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 11/2/02 performance
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