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Friday, April 6, 2012

ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE DUEL (2010)

This adaptation is more National Theater than Moscow Art Players; taken from a novella that feels more Pushkin than Chekhov; and topped with a fumbled climax. But this ensemble piece about drifting Russians trying to sort out romance, friendship & entanglements at a Baltic coastal town is lively & involving all the way thru. Something of a companion piece to Chekhov’s THE LADY WITH THE DOG/’60, which got an all-Russian film treatment that nails tone & carriage without ever quite springing to life; here, the pluses & misses of that production are neatly reversed. Not a bad tradeoff. As the dreaming layabout who quaffs, bets and wants to abandon his mistress (now that her husband has died and made her all too available), Andrew Scott’s shlubby attire & careless grooming, can’t alter a performance that’s too tidy by half. As his nemesis, Tobias Menzies works too hard to prove that his arrogant scientist is a decent sort of chap. His rational outlook needs to be maddeningly sane. Yet, you wind up caring for them both. (Chekhov, ya know.) Fiona Glascott, as the lady in question, who’s equally wronged and wrong, is mesmerizingly right, with a malleable look that surges & ebbs to fit every situation. The ending, which is crucial since it reshuffles the cards for just about all the major players, is a serious miss by Israeli director Dover Koshashvili, but you can always read the novella to clear up any confusion. Better yet, read it first.

DOUBLE-BILL: As noted above, THE LADY WITH THE DOG to see all the particulars done ‘just so.’

READ ALL ABOUT IT: As mentioned, the Chekhov original.

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