A country estate, a shooting, a stabbing, a suicide attempt, vodka shots, disillusionment and romantic complications are the familiar elements that are rendered. Discerning who is who and what is what can be difficult at times due to the streamlining but the show’s program describes the characters and their relationships to each other.
The ten characters are vividly played by a cast of six who marvelously double in some roles of the opposite gender, often back and forth with great speed by changing costumes. It all works due to the sensational presentation that’s performed in the round.
Director Jessica Burr’s fast-paced yet thoughtful staging includes over-lapping dialogue, rapid entrances and exits all over the space and striking visual flourishes. Ms. Burr’s tremendous grasp of stagecraft markedly benefits the play’s morose and draggier second half which contrasts with the frothier first part. The performances are uniformly delightful.
Darrell Stokes is a smoothly solid Platonov. The authentically Russian Irina Abraham is a fiery Anna. Taylor Valentine is playfully ruminative as the weary doctor Nickolai as well as an old woman servant when he puts a scarf over his head. In a red velvet blazer over suspenders, the commanding Ashley N. Hildreth is comically forceful as Anna’s stepson Sergei. Ms. Hildreth frequently appears with flowing hair and wearing a plaid skirt as Sasha, Platonov’s wife and Nickolai’s sister.
In the parts of Porfiry, a lively male neighbor and Marlya a tempestuous female student, Javon Q. Minter winningly offers two distinctive and captivating characterizations. Becca Schneider is equally formidable as a male rifle toting outlaw and as a Sergei’s volatile wife Sofya.
A Persian carpet, a wheeled chair, florally embroidered pillars, a gold door frame, a small table with a well utilized chess set, small atmospheric paintings, vodka bottles strewn all over and an antique chandelier encased in a steel frame are among the components of Matt Opatrny, Teddy Jefferson and Anna-Alisa Belous’ arresting scenic design.
Miriam Nilofa Crowe’s crisp lighting design has a prevalent steady brightness as well as strategic flashing lights for dramatic effects. Jaunty Russian music gets the show off to a rousing start and is a feature of Fan Zhang’s adept sound design.
Predominantly gray, black, white and beige with splashes of other colors, Sarah Thea’s costume design aesthetically represents all of the characters with details that are uniquely and simultaneously period yet timeless.
Platonov is the agreed upon title to a rambling four-act play written by Chekhov in 1878 when he was 18 years old. It was unproduced in his lifetime and was published in 1923, 19 years after his death at the age of 44.
Much of the action takes place at the country house of Anna Petrovna, the widow of a much older general. Platonov is the disaffected, alcoholic and charismatic school teacher with whom several characters become infatuated.
This juvenile effort has never attained the stature of Chekhov’s masterpieces The Three Sisters, The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, but it has inspired notable incarnations. Rex Harrison starred in a 1960 production at London’s Royal Court Theatre. Wild Honey was Michael Frayn’s 1984 version in which Ian McKellen triumphed at London’s National Theatre. The Present was Andrew Upton’s updated version for the Sydney Theatre Company that transferred to Broadway in 2017, starring Cate Blanchett as Anna.
Platonov, or A Play with No Name is a worthy and inventive take on this problematic material.
Platonov, or A Play with No Name (through March 11, 2018)
Blessed Unrest Theatre
New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.blessedunrest.org
Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission