note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Sonya Serebriakova … Julie Korzenik
Andrey Prozorov … Stephen Cooper
Brian Friel’s cerebral duet AFTERPLAY extracts two characters from plays by Anton Chekhov --- Sonya Serebriakova from “Uncle Vanya” and Andrey Prozorov from “The Three Sisters” --- and brings them together by chance in a seedy Russian café, twenty years later. Both are middle-aged but remain tied to their pasts: Sonya is trying to save her family’s estate and still in love with Astrov, now married to her widowed stepmother Yelena; Andrey, a widower now, himself, continues to be a charming but rudderless boy, at heart. Sonya and Andrey converse, politely flirt, make plans to meet again and then undo them and, with numerous sips of vodka, strip away the “little fictions” that have gotten them through their Chekhovian lives. A passing knowledge of “Uncle Vanya” and “The Three Sisters”, of course, will increase your understanding of AFTERPLAY since the evening consists of your either going “ah!” whenever the originals’ plotlines raise their heads or murmuring “hmm” while digesting Mr. Friel’s spin on what could have happened, afterwards --- if AFTERPLAY strikes you as so much talk talk talk and little action, then Mr. Friel has channeled the Master very well, indeed.
Thanks to John Fogle’s reliably sensitive direction and exquisite performances by Julie Korzenik and Stephen Cooper, played with quiet relish, the Mugford Street Players’ production is 2006’s first jewel, theatre-wise. Mr. Fogle charts the rise and fall of the subtle emotional temperatures with an invisible hand but the results are felt just the same, and Ms. Korzenik and Mr. Cooper, sitting mostly in profile, center stage, are beautiful listeners and, in turn, become beautiful to watch with Ms. Korzenik’s haggard, aquiline profile contrasting with Mr. Cooper’s round, jovial one and his purring voice blending with her tremulous tones --- to watch Mr. Cooper consume soup and bread while retaining his crystal-clear diction or turn sodden and lose his sparkle is a master class in timing, alone.
Yes, the production is a jewel, and Salem’s tiny Griffen Theatre is the perfect box to display its intimate facets, lined with Jean Fogle’s appropriately somber atmospheric setting.