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Chekhov's Shorts
Presented by Acanthus Theatre

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Reviewed: 2005-07-23 13:01:05
Rated: 6 out of 10 [3 Stars]
By: John Chase (Director@winnipegonstage.com)

Having a long-time appreciation for the plays and characters of major Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, I knew I was bound to go and see "Chekhov's Shorts", for which the advertising is endowed with a graphic of shorts on a clothesline in clever comedic fashion.

In a two-part presentation, Toronto company Acanthus Theatre serves up "The Evils of Tobacco" (a hen-pecked husband's anti-tobacco speech disintegrates into a mid-life crisis), and "The Proposal" (a hypochondriac's nervous proposal attempt gives rise to a family feud), as directed by Anne Butler.

The greatest strength of this production is its leading man (Denis Couillard as Lomov), who not only holds the audience's attention for the entire 50 minutes, but gives us a believable continuity in both appearance and character. (As it turns out, the young man who comes to make "The Proposal" is the very same older man who speaks of "The Evils of Tobacco", but thirty years prior.)

Other cast members include John Gazey, who delivers a very solid Chubukov, and Angela Froese as Natalya Stepanova, the object of Lomov's affection. As father and daughter, their characters become increasingly hilarious throughout "The Proposal" as the feuding escalates.

While I would say that both shorts are entirely entertaining, I did, however, feel that the action in "The Proposal" remained somewhat muted in comparison to the potential heights of comic chaos and pandemonium that lie within the material. Aside from that particular creative decision, my few issues with the production were mainly technical in nature. There were occasional lines that I found difficult to understand when the emotions of the production's actress were running at their highest, and also -- although the layout of a Fringe venue is hardly optimal compared to a fully-equipped theatre -- there were certain times when both of the actors were nearly upstaging themselves with their postures and gestures.

To those familiar with the melodramatic and continually neurotic characters of Russian authors such as Chekhov, I would certainly recommend that they go and take a look at "Chekhov's Shorts", as I would to any theatre-goers who have yet to find out what this style is all about.

John Chase
July 23, 2005

(Note: This production is part of the 2005 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Visit - http://www.winnipegfringe.com/ )

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