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Turgenev’s Moving 1848 Comedy “A Month in the Country” at RVP

We are greeted with the sounds of birds chirping in the wings of Ken Rowland’s lovely outdoor set, which quickly converts to an inner living room and dining room.  The play begins with the entire cast offering themselves to the audience with what Director James Nelson terms as their outstretched hands inviting the audience to come with them on the journey of their story.

We are about to see Brian Friel’s adaptation of Turgenev’s 1848 classic A Month in the Country.  The setting we have just seen is the Estate of Arkady Islayev in Russia.

Natalya (Shannon Veon Kase) is married to Arkady (Tom Hudgens), a rich land-owner 7-years her senior.  Bored with life, she welcomes the attention of Michel (Ben Ortega) as her devoted but resentful admirer, without ever letting their friendship ever develop into a love affair.

Shannon Veon Kase, Zach Stewart

The arrival of the handsome 21-year-old student Alexsey (Zach Stewart) as a tutor to her son ends Natalya’s boredom.  She falls in love with Alexsey and so does her ward Vera (Emily Ludlow), the Islayev’s 17-year-old foster daughter.  To rid herself of her rival, Natalya proposes that Vera should marry a rich old neighbor, but the rivalry remains unresolved.  Michel struggles with his love for Natalya as she wrestles with hers for Alexsey, while Vera and Alexsey draw closer. 

Misunderstandings arise, and after Michel begins to have his suspicions, both Michel and Alexsey are obliged to leave.  As other members of the household drift off to their own world, Natalya’s life returns to a state of boredom.

Both servants, Matvey (Johnny DeBernard) and Katya (Jocelyn Roddie), did an excellent job of adding some good physical comedy and romance to the story, as well.

Secondary characters include Arkady’s mother Anna (Kim Bromley), her companion Lizaveta (Robyn Wiley), a neighbor Bolshintsov (Frederick Lein), Dr. Shpigelsky (Wood Lockhart) and a German tutor Herr Schaaf (Mark Shepard).

Michael A. Berg’s costumes are right on target as is the effective lighting design by Frank Sarrubi which added much to the play’s atmosphere.  Director James Nelson was largely successful in finding 12 actors skilled in playing comedy.

According to Director Nelson, A Month in the Country is a play about the “destructive and incendiary nature of desire.”  There is a web of romantic pursuit involving every one of the 12 characters, and we see offers, rejections, dismissals, and evasions of love at every turn, providing a fiery contrast to the calm, polite setting of an isolated Russian country estate.

 

A Month in the Country runs from March 13 through April 12, 2015, with performances on

Thursdays 7:30 pm on March 12, 19, and 26; April 2 and 9

Fridays 8:00 pm on March 13, 20, and 27; April 3 and 10

Saturdays 8:00 pm on March 14, 21, and 28

(Saturday, April 11: 2:00 pm Matinee and 8:00 pm)

Sundays 2:00 pm on March 22, 29, and April 12

 

All performances take place at The Barn Theatre, home of the Ross Valley Players, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Ross CA.  To order tickets, telephone 415-456-9555 ext. 1, or online at www.rossvalleyplayers.com

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players is The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl and Directed by JoAnne Winter from May 15 through June 14, 2015.

Flora Lynn Isaacson