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Love, For Short

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Mad Genie Productions, at Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall.

The first three short plays in Mad Genie Productions' quartet of Chekhov adaptations and homages, Love, For Short, are compelling and entertaining (in a grim sort of way). Local playwrights Robert Andrew White and James Serpento, joining legions of would-be Chekhov adapters, have succeeded where few others have, making his words and dramas seem stunningly contemporary, astute, and, best of all, funny.

The evening begins with White's adaptation of The Bear, a hilariously farcical battle of the sexes between a grieving widow and an ursine brute (wonderfully performed by the utterly believable and sympathetic Tricia Armstrong and the scenery-chomping David Mitchell Ghilardi). Next are White's chillingly ironic Zina, concerning a man's futile effort to rescue a suicidal scoundrel, and Serpento's haunting The Doctor, which, taking its cues from Chekhov's short stories "The Doctor" and "A Work of Art," delivers a memorable meditation on art, love, and mortality. The evening ends with Serpento's Lazy Susan, a facile reworking of themes best explored by Calvino and Pirandello and related only tangentially to Chekhov's infurtiatingly indeterminate "The Eve of the Trial."

With the occasional exception of Ghilardi, whose voice tended to overwhelm the converted rec room, the cast are indisputably professional, directed with wit, panache, and intelligence by Christine Hartman. Even when Lazy Susan devolves into hackneyed self-indulgence, we've already received more than our fair share of entertainment.

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