Monday, September 24, 2012

Chekhov's "Little Vaudevilles" Open the Tulane Season

Jessica Podewell makes her directorial debut at Tulane University with a Night of Chekhov: The Bear and The Proposal. Both shows are playful farces focusing on courtship and romance through disastrous means, and the most well-meaning plans and intentions easily go awry. Though comedic, these one-acts get at the heart of how men and women interact and communicate with one another.

 On directing Chekhov, Podewell says, "These one acts are different than his other more grand and gorgeous works. To use Chekhov’s own words, they are “stupid little vaudevilles.” Wonderfully stupid vaudevilles, if I may say so myself. They live in the ridiculous world of farce. Like Faulty Towers or Black Books, they house characters so wrapped up in their own passions, logical thinking and reasoning become sidetracked."

The Bear tells the story of widow in mourning, Elena Ivanovna Popova, on the seven month anniversary of her husband’s death. As her footwoman, Luka, encourages her to leave the house and end the mourning process, she is interrupted by Grigory Smirnov. He has come to collect the 1200 rubles owed to him by Popova’s late husband, which Popova cannot pay until her steward arrives the next day. Smirnov refuses to leave until he is paid, which results in an argument over the state of her mourning and true love. Outraged by her Popova’s insults, Smirnov demands a duel—to which Popova enthusiastically agrees. The surprising result of their duel and arguments shows the irrational and radical nature of love.

In The Proposal, Ivan Lomov comes to propose to the daughter, Natalia, of his long-time neighbor Stepan Chubukov. After receiving permission to ask for her hand, Lomov and Natalia begin to argue about a meadow that is a disputed piece of land between their houses. Lomov, a hypochondriac, develops heart palpitations and numbness in his leg as a result. Hearing the argument, Chubukov sends Lomov away, in disbelieve that Lomov would dare ask for Natalia’s hand in marriage. Surprised by the news, Natalia begs her father to bring back Lomov—which only results in another argument. Disgruntled and disheartened by the process, Chubukov forces the two to accept the proposal…only for their engagement to begin with an argument.

A Night of Chekhov runs October 16-20 at 8 pm, and October 21 at 2 pm.
Tickets may be purchased by calling 504-865-5106, Monday through Friday, 10-4 pm, or online: