Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Lady with The Pet Dog"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"The Lady with The Pet Dog"

Adapted from the short story by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Dan Milstein

Set Design by Morgan Kaegal
Lighting Design by Kathy Maloney
Costume Design by Bonnie Duncan
Live Music by Fred Harrington
Stage Manager Kelly Hartwell


Joseph Pearlman
Dmitry Dmitrich Gurov

SerahRose Roth
Anna Sergeyevna

Sean Kilbridge
A Man on The Esplanade/A Conductor/A Servant/A Lawyer who Plays Cards/A Porter/Memory Dmitry

Lisa Young-Robinson
A Woman on The Esplanade/The Wife

Joshua Callahan
A Man on The Esplanade/A Lecturer/An Acquaintance/An Usher/The Husband

Tori Low
A Woman on The Esplanade/The Daughter/Three Mistresses/A Clerk/Memory Anna

Yip Yip
The Pet Dog

Artistic Director Dan Milstein has forged a distinctive style for The Rough & Tumble Theatre. His and the company's stated aims [1. to make good theater; 2. to make cheap theater] have been realized by creating intimate, up-close works in which a gesture or a single change of expression makes the whole scene different. They use movement, narration, and occasionally even placards instead of sets, and both recorded music and Fred Harrington's live electric-piano playing to add emotional color. In "George K Goes to Work" all their eloquent dialog was Blablah-bla-Blablablah {spoken in gibberish}; now they use Anton Chekhov's laconic words to make his "Lady with The Pet Dog" a moving minimalist delight. For only ten bucks.

The company has turned their poverty of means into an asset. For this show, Joseph Pearlman and SerahRose Roth play the two married people whose summer-resort fling becomes an inescapable life-long obsession, while the other four members of the cast play not only everyone else, but everyThing else. For instance, hoping to rekindle the affair Dmitry goes to Petersburg where the long high fence around her home for the first time impresses him with her wealth and station. The rest of the cast, each holding a small section of pickets up before their faces, play the fence. Not only that, as Dmitry walks across stage musing aloud, each person peels off at the far end, moving around behind to reappear, so that the fence seems literally to stretch the width of the stage.

Periodically people step up to change illustrative placards --- making smiling eye-contact with the audience that register's Chekhov's satirical compassion for the little lives of his protagonists. And detail tells all: Lisa Young-Robinson's spectacles and appointment-book make her Dmitry's wife, perhaps because that's all there is to her; four people become a crowd. Tori Low in upsweep and heels is his office-clerk, while in slippers and a beret she becomes Dmitry's naively impertinent questioning daughter. A succession of acquaintances with one-line each creates the circle of Dmitry's habitual life back in Moscow; Joshua Callahan's repeated acquiescences to his wife's repeated need to visit a Moscow doctor for "women's problems" increasingly says what he doesn't say, while holding a handful of programs while the cast sits respectably focused forward makes him an usher at the Petersburg Opera. Sean Kilbridge's pointed beard lends a worldly awareness to half a dozen slyly glancing figures.

The decision to bring Avrahm Yarmolinsky's translation of Chekhov to the stage may have been Dan Milstein's, but thereafter he became that quietly bespectacled scarecrow in the back row endlessly scribbling notes (as he probably will even closing night) meant to shave and shape the collaborative input of the entire company, who can take the spotlight or fade into the scenery as the uninterrupted flow of the story unfolds.
And even for such a rich, moving experience, they only charge ten bucks.


A perfect clue to the deadpan whimsy of The Rough & Tumble Theatre is this bio:
"Yip Yip (performer)
Yip Yip is thrilled to be starring in his third Rough & Tumble production, having played a title role in both the original cast version and the revival of 'The Hero, the Villain, the Empress and Her Dog.' Originally from F.A.O. Schwartz, Yip Yip studied with Stella Adler and spent several years at Circle in The Square. He feels lucky to have found such a rewarding career in acting, especially since he is stuffed. He is also very pleased to have recently been given a bath and dried in the oven. Favorite roles include Toto in 'The Wizard of Oz,' The Dog in 'Zoo Story' and 'The Hound of The Baskervilles.' "

"The Lady With the Pet Dog" (till 28 April)
Leland Center, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1 (617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide