Chekhov: The Stories | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Chekhov: The Stories

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CHEKHOV: THE STORIES, Piven Theatre Workshop. Little in literature rivals the stories of the good doctor. And Joyce Piven has chosen five of them on the subject of love, written between 1883 and 1895, for this story theater adaptation. Her 16 actors deliver unforced, appropriately bittersweet performances considering the wryness of these vignettes about wayward hearts.

Hard-eyed compassion graces "The Chorus Girl," an ironic inversion of conventional morality: a man's mistress (poignant Leah Gale) is unjustly assailed by her lover's predatory wife and the suddenly guilt-ridden husband. Equally tender is "The Lady With the Pet Dog," a seemingly unfinished chronicle about two adulterers, a reformed Moscow rake (Jonathan Clark) and a naive visitor from the provinces (the ardent Joanne Underwood). "A Woman Without Prejudices" is heartier fare, celebrating the lust between newlyweds: the bride discovers that her husband was once a circus clown, and Chekhov slyly hints at their acrobatic lovemaking. In "Anna Round the Neck" a pompous, middle-aged government functionary marries a self-effacing 18-year-old, only to endure her ruthlessness when her looks conquer all around her.

The vaudevillian "Cook's Wedding" is a sharply focused snapshot, charmingly taken from the point of view of a child (precocious Matthew Berger Schorsch) who'll miss his beloved cook (Kathy Ruhl) when she marries a doting cabman (Beck).

--Lawrence Bommer

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