Category: Anton Chekhov

Review: Stupid Fucking Bird (Sideshow Theatre)

Nina O’Keefe stars as Nina in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)        
Stupid Fucking Bird

Written by Aaron Posner
Directed by Jonathan L. Green 
at RC Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Sept 21  |  tickets: $20-$25   |  more info
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August 25, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Three Soldiers for Sisters (Red Theater Chicago)

Victoria Alvarez-Chacon stars as Cookie in Red Theater's "Three Soldiers (for Sisters)," written and directed by Aaron Sawyer. (photo credit: Austin D. Oie)        
Three Soldiers
         (for Sisters)

Written and Directed by Aaron Sawyer  
at Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee (map)
thru March 23  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info
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March 6, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Bear (Adapt Theatre Productions)

Chris McGillivray, Laura Stephenson and Jack Bourgeois star in Adapt Theatre Productions' "The Bear", adapted from Anton Chekov by Shawn Bowers, directed by Amanda Lautermilch.        
The Bear

Written by Shawn Bowers
Adapted from Anton Chekov  
Directed by Amanda Lautermilch
at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map)
thru March 9  |  tickets: $10-$12   |  more info
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February 20, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: Three Sisters (Steppenwolf Theatre)

(left to right) Sisters Masha (Carrie Coon), Irina (Caroline Neff) and Olga (ensemble member Ora Jones) yearn for Moscow in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, adapted by ensemble member Tracy Letts, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro.        
Three Sisters 

Written by Anton Chekhov 
Adapted by Tracy Letts 
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro  
at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted (map)
thru Aug 26  |  tickets: $20-$75   |  more info
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July 12, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Encores – After the Theatre and Other Stories (Piven Theatre Workshop)

Joanne Underwood and Daniel Smith - Encores Piven Theatre Workshop       
Encores: After the Theatre
     and Other Stories

Adapted from stories by Anton Chekhov  
Directed by Joyce Piven 
Noyes Cultural Center, Evanston (map)
thru May 20  |  tickets: $25   |  more info
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May 10, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)

A scene from Piccolo Theatre's "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov, directed by Zachary Davis. (photo credit: Robert E. Potter III)       
The Cherry Orchard 

Written by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Paul Schmidt 
Directed by Zachary Davis  
Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main St. (map)
thru May 5  |  tickets: $15-$25   |  more info
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March 20, 2012 | 4 Comments More

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Raven Theatre)


Spastic antics level Raven’s ‘Cherry Orchard’


A dance in The Apple Orchard - Raven Theatre

Raven Theatre presents
The Cherry Orchard
Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Michael Menendian
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
through July 23  |  tickets: $30  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

Chekhov and Shakespeare frequently find themselves paired together in the same sentences, and for good reason. Look at their respective repertoires, and you’ll notice striking similarities: both writers layer styles, open-ended philosophical questions, tones, and character intentions, often in the same scenes. No two playwrights in theater history achieve more poignant insights into how people interact and tick; look no further for bodies of work that lend themselves to unique visions and interpretations. The Cherry Orchard–a work as melancholy as it is hilarious–calls out for inspired readings that highlight different aspects of the text.

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)Staging a play that’s so full of details, it’s a mystery why Raven Theatre Artistic Director Michael Menendian insists on a mad-cap, sketch comedy-inspired, thin-skinned production. By sketch, by the way, I don’t mean SNL–think something along the loud, grating lines of MAD TV.

The Cherry Orchard is indeed a comedy, but bumbling cannot substitute substance (Fernando S. Albiar aught to consider athletic gear for the all the time he spends flailing and falling as Yeikhodov). Chekhov’s story about a family’s inability to accept its fall from grace detours from traditional comedic conventions. Most comedies portray a collective character perception of high stakes in low-stake situations; Chekhov’s doomed romantics and spendthrifts suffer from the opposite and don’t take their imminent situation seriously enough. Raven’s production chooses neither, abandoning emotional authenticity in favor of outsize gestures and broad physical jokes. Even straight man Lopakhin (Frederick Harris)–The Cherry Orchard’s Michael Bluth–is subject the over-the-top, surface-skimming character choices. Here, necessary tragic elements gets steamrolled. Like a light switch, Varya (Helen Young) clicks instantly on and off, sobbing like an infant for humor one moment and then standing inexplicably content the next. The play’s philosophical speeches, which are usually uttered aloud with intentional ambiguity, are delivered stand-up soliloquy style to the audience. It’s as if Menendian is going out of his way to make sure we don’t feel anything, unaware that when the drama dies, so goes the levity.

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie) A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)

Already hindered conceptually by an over-simple interpretation, Raven’s production is marred by basic production elements. The preview performance I attended featured confused staging and stilted action–issues that aren’t commonly solved by another few runs. As Ranevskaya and Trofimov, Joann Montemurro and Michael Peters provide some heart to the otherwise shallow production. In that respect, they’re alone. If the rest of the family doesn’t really seem to care, why should we?

Rating: ★½

A scene from Raven Theatre's "The Apple Orchard" by Anton Chekhov. (photo: Dean LaPrairie)

The Cherry Orchard continues through July 23rd, with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Performances take place at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map).  Tickets are $30, and can be purchased by phone (box office: 773-338-2177) or online at TicketTurtle. Free parking is provided in a lot adjacent to the theatre; additional street parking is available. For more information, visit


June 9, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Review: El Nogalar (Teatro Vista at Goodman Theatre)


A fresh, visceral update of Chekhov classic


Sandra Delgado and Christina Nieves - El Nogalar

Teatro Vista i/a/w Goodman Theatre presents
El Nogalar
Written by Tanya Saracho
Directed by Cecilie D. Kennan
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
through April 24  |  tickets: $15-$32  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

‘”They’ve taken our Mexico. They’ve taken our days, our nights.”   –Valeria

Breakout Chicago playwright Tanya Saracho has taken Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and planted it in contemporary Northern Mexico. Change the cherries to pecans, keep the once-wealthy family and the rigid class divisions, hang on to willful blindness to a way of life changing and you have the Silver Age of Russia all over again. One notable exception: Madame Ranevsky and her household never had to contend with the violence spawned by drug cartels vying for control of their territory. Bracingly directed by Cecilie D. Keenan, Saracho’s adept variation takes Chekhov’s premise from the frying pan and throws it directly into the fire. The result is an exciting new work that speaks with immediacy and passion to our times.

Carlo Lorenzo Garcia and Yunuen Pardo - El NogalarDunia (Yunuen Pardo) and Guillermo Lòpez (Carlo Lorenzo Garcia) maintain the house and land belonging to the once-prosperous Galvan family. Only the older daughter of the clan, distraught, anxious and overworked Valeria (Sandra Delgado), has stayed on to manage the property. Her mother Maité (Charin Alvarez) and sister Anita (Christina Nieves) have long lived up north in America, Anita attending various schools and Maité absorbed in an abusive affair with an American intellectual—a man who says “Mexican” like it’s a dirty thing. “You know he means other kinds of Mexicans,” says Valeria to her returning sister, hanging on to those little shreds of the past and class distinction that once defined her family. The past hangs on like a ghost they can’t shake and, in the past, their home played host to governors and senators. An upstairs bedroom contains a bed rumored to have held a former president of Mexico. Now, Valeria fights Dunia to keep the lights off during the day to save electricity and she desperately relies on Guillermo for physical protection and financial solutions.

Maité and Anita return to the shell of their family’s former ease and grandeur—a condition symbolically reinforced by the oversized, intricately detailed dollhouse that centers Brian Bembridge’s set design. Their friends, the old rich and influential families of Mexico, have fled. Only those too poor to leave, like Dunia and Guillermo, have stayed to endure the ravishment of their lives and futures by ongoing drug wars. Drug lords have grabbed surrounding lands and now set their claws on the Galvan’s land, which sports a once-glorious pecan orchard that Guillermo Lòpez worked in barefoot as a child.

Charín Alvarez and Christina Nieves - El Nogalar Sandra Delgado and Yunuen Pardo - El Nogalar
Charín Alvarez, Christina Nieves and Sandra Delgado Christina Nieves - El Nogalar

Pardo and Garcia do a brilliant job setting up the brutal and dangerous reality that informs their every action and choice. “Who would believe the news?” says Dunia about the kidnappings and slayings that are a constant occurrence, “It seems like a movie.” Lòpez tells her she talks too much and will no doubt end up dead in a ditch for it, but he himself seems ambivalent about his own tough pose. “Words are for idle people, people who don’t have to work for a living,” he mutters as he strokes a book that he longs to have the security and leisure to read and absorb, like his wealthy employer before him.

Yet, nothing heightens the dangers facing the Galvan family like mother Maité’s entrance. Here is a woman on the edge, who still dresses and acts like a jet-setter from a lost era of affluence. Alvarez subtly captures Maité’s mania and pushes it over that edge at precise moments, but never overplays it. Here is a woman with her head in the sand, with a manic faith in the belief that just acting the part of a jaded millionaire will pay her way and protect her from the losses to come. “Look at this place. It’s breaking my heart in two,” she says of the house and her dried out, untended pecan trees, yet we know she will never take responsibility for its neglect. Sandra Delgado and Christina Nieves in El NogalarStill absorbed in a vision of herself from 20 years ago, she jogs the hills in tight mini-shorts heedless of the risk she’s putting herself in.

Young Anita also returns sorely unprepared for the world she’s come home to. An adolescence spent shifting from boarding school to boarding school has left her as ungrounded and as unconnected to her culture as can be. “I’m a half person,” she complains to Valeria, having only a little grasp of Spanish and a debutante’s understanding of the world. Of the three Galvan women, only Valeria seems to have developed the capacity to survive the loss of the orchard. Delgado deftly runs the gamut of overtaxed emotions that are Valeria’s lot, whether trying to contain her mother’s excesses or get her to accept the reality of their situation. Her crowning moment comes once the place is no longer theirs and she throws the keys that she’s worn as a chatelaine at her mother’s feet.

Saracho’s reworking of Chekhov is vivid in its dialogue and visceral in the chances that it takes. Teatro Vista’s cast renders earthier performances than one will find in a delicately balanced Cherry Orchard, but nothing that isn’t absolutely appropriate to time and place. Not only does the production never veer into overwrought territory, it instead awakens us to a version of ourselves under similar conditions. What could be a more enlightening evening in the theater than that?

Rating: ★★★½

Carlo Lorenzo Garcia and Bert Matias - El Nogalar.

April 6, 2011 | 0 Comments More