DR. CHEKHOV: WARD 6 adapted from the Chekhov story by Dean Gilmour, Michele Smith and the company, directed by Gilmour and Smith, with Paul Fauteux, Gilmour, Ann-Marie Kerr and Smith. Presented by Theatre Smith-Gilmour and Factory at Factory (125 Bathurst). Runs to March 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday and March 27 at 2 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc-$25. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Theatre Smith-Gilmour has had great success adapting the fiction of Chekhov for the stage, and some of the magic still holds with Dr. Chekhov: Ward 6 , set partly in a small town's madhouse. The company - co-directors and actors Dean Gilmour and Michele Smith , along with fellow performers Paul Fauteux and Ann-Marie Kerr - play multiple characters, shifting from person to person with skill and alacrity with a gesture, a tonal shift or a hat.
At the centre of the tale - and storytelling plays a major part in the production - are the institutionalized, paranoid Gromov (Gilmour), and Ragin (Smith), the well-meaning but naive head doctor, who realizes that the most intelligent person in the town is a lunatic. Their philosophical discussions in the latter half of the play are a key part of the story, but the company hasn't found a way to give these theoretical exchanges any dramatic life.
Around those static moments, though, there's a glowing theatricality that combines moments of wistful sadness and shocking intensity. The production gets great support from Kimberly Purtell 's expressive pools of light, and the set and costumes of Victoria Wallace , who makes books a central visual device and allows for a quick transformation of everyday clothes into madhouse garb.