Review: Home of the Gentry (On the Spot Theatre)

| August 16, 2014
Daniel Ochoa and Emma Brayndick star in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry, adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz)        
      
Home of the Gentry

Adapted and Directed by Mike Brayndick
From the novel by Ivan Turgenev
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Aug 31  |  tickets: $20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Adaptation struggles to find fresh take on melancholic tale    

     

Liliana Mitchell and Daniel Ochoa in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz)

    
On the Spot Theatre presents
    
Home of the Gentry

Review by Lawrence Bommer

Deservedly not as famous as Ivan Turgenev’s better “Fathers and Sons” and “A Month in the Country,” the master’s 1858 novel “Home of the Gentry” is a cautionary, bittersweet tale about a Russian emigre’s inability to find happiness when he returns home. It’s 1842 and, mired in a frozen marriage, peripatetic Fyodor Lavretsky has returned sans wife from France to his native Oryol, Russia. In this bucolic setting he hopes for a second chance at love among his amiable relations.

Emma Brayndick and Daniel Ochoa in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz)Fyodor fondly believes he’s found it in the beloved home of his cousin Marya Kalitin, specifically with her daughter Elisaveta. Though Fyodor’s unexpected arrival thwarts the girl’s unsuitable engagement with Vladimir Panshin, an ambitious court functionary, Fyodor’s late-blooming May-December love affair is frustrated by his second cousin’s religious calling. Spring, he pronounces at the end, will come again but he’ll never feel the season in his heart.

Seen in a final preview, adaptor/director Mike Brayndick’s overlong and under-inspired staging will do little to refurbish Turgenev’s rightly obscure tale of Russian melancholy and amorous depletion. There’s little urgency behind Daniel Ochoa’s overly narrating Fyodor, a desultory wanderer whose desire to make the “promise of spring” a personal redemption never seems to have—or earn—a chance. The usual suspects of gossips, climbers and dreamers, the title gentry are a dispiriting bunch–except for wryly deadpanning Liliana Mitchell as Fyodor’s irascible aunt. Emma Brayndick’s Liza is charming but empty, which should make her the perfect match to Ochoa’s dithering Fyodor. Katherine Dalin indulges melodramatic overkill as Fyodor’s purse-proud wife, returning from Paris like a vengeance to snap his joy. But happiness is not on his menu or, given these stilted performances from an under-motivated cast, on the audience’s. It doesn’t help that most of the expository business in the drawing-room happens too far upstage to make an impact.

Daniel Ochoa in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz) Katherine Dalin and Baird Brutscher in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz)

Occasionally Turgenev throws in marginally interesting exchanges about problems for progress in Russia and whether a more enlightened Europe should become a role model. There’s a clumsily rendered dream sequence that explains Fyodor’s insecurities as the product of a miserable childhood. A German music teacher (Pete Blatchford) provides putative comic relief.

But the unrequited romance at the heart of this perfunctory adaptation never gels into more than a mannered and awkward exercise.

  
Rating: ★★
  
   

Home of the Gentry continues through August 31st at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln  (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 2:30pm.  Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online through GreenhouseTheater.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at OnTheSpotTheatre.weebly.com(Running time: play length, includes an intermission)

Katherine Dalin and Pete Blatchford in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz) Daniel Ochoa in On the Spot Theatre's adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's "Home of the Gentry," adapted and directed by Mike Brayndick. (photo credit: Kaily Heitz)

Photos by Kaily Heitz


     

artists

cast

Daniel Ochoa (Fyodor), Amber Mandley, Emma Brayndick (Liza), Liliana Mitchell, Baird Brutscher, Pete Blatchford, Donaldson, Paul Russell, Katherine Dalin, Emilie Hanlet, Casey Brayndick

behind the scenes

Mike Brayndick (director, adaptor), Steven Hill (technical director), Pat Henderson (lighting design), Kathleen Qiu (costume design), Mikey Moran (composer), Steven Gawritt (sound design), Kassie Davis (set design), J.R. Pierce (stage manager), Kaily Heitz (photos)

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Category: 2014 Reviews, Adaptation, Greenhouse Theater Center, Lawrence Bommer, New Work, On The Spot Theatre, World Premier

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