The Lady with the Little Dog, the story of a melancholy affair between a Russian couple which begins in 1901, is one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous and influential short stories.
Dmitry Gurov, a bored Moscow banker nearly 40 years old , breaks up the tedium of his married life by habitually engaging in affairs yet he soon thereafter tires of the women, who he views as “the lower race.”
He is vacationing on the Black Sea at Yalta when he first sees Anna wearing a black beret and walking a white Pomeranian dog, and immediately develops an interest in the attractive young woman. Anna, who is at the resort to briefly escape from her unhappy marriage to a minor provincial bureaucrat, soon succumbs to his charms.
When Anna’s husband summons her back, Gurov also returns home, expecting that his interest in Anna will fade now that he has been sexually satiated. Yet her memory unexpectedly haunts him. They renew contact and begin a long-distance affair.
Despite the fact that both are committing adultery, Chekhov is nonjudgmental of the fact that they are both committing adultery, giving the story both a classic and modern feel at the same time.
Adaptor/director Stephanie Mumford clearly has an affinity for Chekhov. She has previously adapted and directed the Chekhov short story A Little Trick for Quotidian Theatre Company. This adaptation is full of loving little touches that demonstrate her knowledge and appreciation for the great writer, such as a playful opening sequence that illustrates multiple translations of the story’s title.
Mumford does a wonderful job of evoking a proper Chekhovian atmosphere. The period costumes, the antique furniture carefully placed in the compact set, the gloomy lighting, and excellent projected images conjure up the wistful and gentle world of Chekhov. An especially nice touch involves the use of Russian music played by two of the actors (Christine Kharazian, who plays Gurov’s wife, is the violinist while Zachary Roberts who plays Anna’s husband is the pianist).
Chelsea Mayo gives an outstanding performance as Anna. She is alternately captivated by Gurov and emotionally torn by the prospect of their relationship. She projects a tragic beauty that makes it conceivable that the jaded Gurov could finally be touched by a woman’s love.
The Lady with the Little Dog
closes July 31, 2016
Details and tickets
Ian Blackwell Rogers has the harder job of making Gurov’s interior motivations understandable to the audience, but he provides a compelling stage presence. In order to help assist the audience in understanding the story and the feelings of the characters, Mumford uses the devise of a narrator, a character named Anton Pavolich (David Dubov) as a stand-in for Chekhov himself.
While Dubov masterfully captures the rhythm of Chekhov, the overly abundant use of narration has a distancing effect on the production. Mumford’s adaptation uses dialogue from the short story, other works of Chekhov, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (The Lady with the Little Dog is viewed as Chekhov more realistic and slightly critical riff on the Anna Karenina story and themes). Yet one would wish for more dialogue or monologues that might have help the story achieve more dramatic impact.
The story is well-staged, making use of several distinct settings on a two-level set. The previously mentioned projections help the audience experience several diverse environments ranging from a seashore to a Russian winter. One minor qualm is that a small space used for Anna’s hotel room makes it hard to appreciate fully the important shift in their relationship following consummation of the affair.
Despite the careful attention to detail and the affection given to this adaptation, perhaps Chekhov was right to use the short story form for narrative of Anna and Gurov’s romance and emotional struggles instead of dramatizing it (although the thought of another Chekhov play is enticing). Yet this tale still works for the audiences, even the famously unresolved ending. Fans of Chekhov will especially appreciate this thoughtful adaption of the classic short story.
The Lady with the Little Dog based on the short story by Anton Chekhov . Adapted & directed by Stephanie Mumford. Featuring Lynda Bruce-Lewis, David Dubov, Christine Kharazian, Zachary Roberts, and Ian Blackwell Rogers. Costume, Properties, and Set Design: Stephanie Mumford. Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Lynda Bruce-Lewis with assistance from Lauren Katz. Lighting Design: Don Slater. Sound Design/Projections: Ed Moser. Graphic Images of Children: Ethan Pirk. Produced by Quotidian Theatre Company. Reviewed by Steven McKnight.