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Theater review: 'The Treatment' at Boston Court

March 1, 2012 |  2:04 pm

The treatment
Theater Movement Bazaar continues its investigation into the works of Anton Chekhov with “The Treatment,” a movement theater riff on “Ward 6,” one of the Russian author’s indisputable masterpieces of short fiction. A collaboration with the Theatre @ Boston Court, which is hosting the production, the piece isn’t so much an adaptation as a playfully stylized response to the story of a doctor who goes from supervising mental patients to joining their ranks.

The physician in question is Ragin (Mark Doerr), a man who would rather philosophize about the world (with a glass of vodka by his side) than do anything to improve it. A frustrated intellectual, he quickly dispatches his medical duties so he can engage in fruitless talk with Michael (Jake Eberle), an agreeable if dimwitted postmaster, who passes for cultured company in this one-horse town.

Desperate to bandy ideas with someone with a little more firepower, Ragin begins to take a keen interest in Gromov (Mark Skeens), the most highly literate of the Ward 6 inmates. But this new relationship doesn’t just force Ragin to rethink his most complacent beliefs—it causes those around him to question the doctor's very sanity, not least because Gromov, although lucid at moments, is a paranoid lunatic.

The treatment 2Conceived by Theatre Movement Bazaar co-founders Tina Kronis and Richard Alger, “The Treatment” is lively and spry but has trouble concentrating its energy into narrative vision. Kronis’ direction and choreography and Alger’s text, pulling in different directions, have a way of diffusing rather than distilling the story’s meaning.

The heart of Chekhov’s work lies in the tense interaction between Ragin and Gromov, with Gromov outmaneuvering Ragin in their debates on freedom, stoicism, madness and oppression. Here, however, oafish Michael takes up more theatrical space than shrewd, embittered Gromov, which is a shame because the haunting presence Skeens casts as Gromov is probably the most compelling aspect of the production.

The creators clearly prefer bounding gestures to workaday words, but the ensuing theatricality doesn’t accrue enough resonance. The piece has a hectic sportiveness that can be entertaining in a tilt-a-whirl fashion, but it doesn’t lead us very deep into Chekhov's all-seeing social critique.

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-- Charles McNulty

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charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

 “The Treatment,” The Theater @Boston Court, 70 North Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $34. (626) 683-6883 or www.bostoncourt.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photos: Upper: Mark Doerr and Mark Skeens. Lower: Cast photo in a scene from "The Treatment" at the Theatre at Boston Court. Credit: Ed Krieger

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