CHEKHOV LONGS IN THE RAVINE by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Dean Gilmour, Michele Smith and the company, directed by Gilmour and Smith, with Colombe Demers, Gilmour, Ann-Marie Kerr, Liisa Repo-Martell and Smith. Presented by Theatre Smith-Gilmour and Factory at the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Runs to March 3, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $18-$25, Sunday pwyc-$18. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
theatre smith-gilmour builds on a strong foundation with Chekhov Longs' In The Ravine. After playing with the light side of the author in its earlier show Chekhov's Shorts, the company here flips emotions to display the tears wrung from an adapted novella. The building, by the way, is literal -- bricks are a cornerstone of the storytelling.Set in 1899 Russia, the tale involves the extended Tsybukin family, presided over by patriarch Gregory (Dean Gilmour). He has two sons -- both played by Michele Smith -- and all three men have wives (Colombe Demers, Ann-Marie Kerr and Liisa Repo-Martell). All the actors play several roles, with Gilmour as narrator, and the evening's most splendid staging is a film-style village wedding, scene after scene rolling forward until we feel like we've watched dozens of characters.
Simple but expert storytelling is a hallmark of the company, and what they accomplish with the bricks, four chairs and various squares of cloth is amazing. Each of the central figures has telltale traits as well -- Kerr's polishing of an invisible window to squeaky cleanness, for example, defines the household angel she plays -- and we never doubt the emotional depth of the characters.
There's a dip in audience focus partway through (or is it the lulling warmth of the theatre?), but the show ends on a powerfully melancholic image, a final example of the ensemble's economic, clever story theatre.