Chekhov on again

Theatre Smith-Gilmour's Chekhov Longs makes a welcome return

CHEKHOV LONGS… IN THE RAVINE adapted from Anton Chekhov, directed by Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith (Theatre Smith-Gilmour). At the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Runs to March 26. $15-$28. 416-504-9971. See Continuing, page 80. Rating:  NNNN

Chekhov Longs has yet to wear out its welcome. Four years after its smash-hit run at the Factory, Theatre Smith-Gilmour returns to mesmerize new audiences with the story of Grigory Petrovitch (Dean Gilmour), a greedy man who loses everything – both material and psychological – by the design of his ambitious daughter-in-law (Colombe Demers).

The show is based on a short story by Anton Chekhov and set in pre-revolution Russia, and the historical context colours every exchange. As Aksinya, Demers catches all the pride and sense of upper middle class entitlement that provokes resentment in almost everyone she meets.

As Lipa, a gentle peasant girl undone by Aksinya, Michelle Monteith captures the other Russia, the vulnerable and gentle mother country weeping over her children lost to violence and hate.

Expectations going into a relaunch like this are always high. Even given the Smith-Gilmour treatment a physical method of performance based on clown work learned at France’s famous Lecoq school keeping a show like this vital without changing it entirely from the successful original is difficult.

There’s something fresh and confident about TS-G’s work. They’re constantly finding new purposes for old things.

Even in the play itself, a tablecloth becomes a wedding veil, a head scarf for three giggling babushkas and a piece of fine linen flapping gently in the breeze, the only calm element in the play’s climactic scene.

Every production choice speaks to the idea that things don’t have to be tied to their original purpose. Like stories, uses are as infinite as there are people to use, and nowhere is that clearer than in a production like this, where repeat performances only deepen the original.

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