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Theater review: 'The Unserious Chekhov' at the Sherry Theatre

April 15, 2010 |  4:00 pm
In "The Unserious Chekhov," a group of actors assembled for a pickup rehearsal enacts some of Anton Chekhov's lesser-known short plays. That workshop premise suffuses this Theatre Unleashed outing, with decidedly mixed results.

A backstage framing device introduces us to a cast unhappy about the pans their "Cherry Orchard" has received. While they are waiting for their Stanislavski-centric director, the notion of doing the one-acts, translated by George Malko, launches the program.

"Dirty Tragedians and Leprous Playwrights," directed by Gregory Crafts, sets the stakes. Props and costumes are deliberately perfunctory, wielded by a large, antic ensemble. The mood turns somber in "On the Main Road," directed by Andrew Moore, an overview of Russian class structure that succumbs to overly languid attack, though Donald Agnelli's criminal, Jim Grollman's drunk and Tom Ashworth's barkeep take the proficiency honors

After the actors take a bathroom break, it's Erin Scott's staging of "Before the Eclipse," a two-hander in which Carlos Martinez's sun and Kim Shannon's moon do what they can with ultra-quaint material. Next up, that academic staple "The Bear," directed by Pamela Moore with the maximum of bluster and posturing, which is exactly how unexpected suitor Crafts and recalcitrant widow Jenn Scuderi play it.

Having sent off actor David Shackeford for coffee at the top of Act 2, "The Night Before the Trial," also directed by Erin Scott, pulls "stage manager" Ben Atkinson from the sidelines to the lead role. He acquits himself fairly well against Grollman and Julia Plostnicks, before the evening ends with a questionable nod to "Cherry Orchard's" finale.

As a curiosity, "The Unserious Chekhov" certainly has educational merit. Everyone's sincerity is undeniable. However, it's hardly a laugh riot in its labored mix of "Story Theatre" techniques and Industry Night tactics.

– David C. Nichols

"The Unserious Chekhov," The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends May 8. $15. (818) 849-4039. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.