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Friel Deal Two Plays After Anton Chekhov
a one act, comedy/drama
by Brian Friel

VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 5521

SHOWING : June 13, 2019 - June 23, 2019



Aris Theatre presents two plays by Brian Friel after Anton Checkhov. In The Bear, a young widow has immersed herself in the role of mourning for her philandering now dead husband. Her frail and ancient manservant tries in vain to snap her out of it. Then her neighbor Smirnov barges in ...

In The Yalta Game a sexy, funny, romantic tale of passion and forbidden romance that will leave you meditating on the nature of love when strangers meet to play the Yalta game.

Director Tim McDonough
Lighting Designer Elisabeth Cooper
Costume Designer Joan Cooper
Sound Designer Robert Drake
Electrician Liam Irwin
Stage Manager Quintara Johnson
Electrician Faina Khibkin
Elena Erin Greenway
Dmitry Eric Lang
Anna Christina Leidel
Gregory Tamil Periasamy
Luka Chris Schulz
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by playgoer
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
"The Friel Deal" consists of two Chekhovian one-act plays written by Irish playwright Brian Friel. The first, "The Bear," is pretty much a translation of Chekhov’s comic play. The second, "The Yalta Game," is adapted from a Chekhov short story. The moods of the two are quite different, but both succeed as fine theatrical works.

In "The Bear," widow Elena (Erin Greenway) is visited by boorish Gregory Smirnov (Tamil Periasamy). He has come to collect a debt incurred by her late husband; his estate is in jeopardy of repossession if he can’t get the money right away. His insistence and her intransigence lead to a challenge to a duel before things take an unexpected turn. The extreme behaviors of both rise to comic heights, and the attempts by a feeble servant (Chris Schulz) to accommodate them both adds additional comedy. This is a wet play, with water splashed with abandon and vodka swilled and used for a splendid spit take. The fun builds and builds.

"The Yalta Game" is a two-hander. Dmitry (Eric Lang) introduces us to the game he plays while sitting in the square in downtown Yalta: he makes up semi-fantastical stories about the people he sees about him, inventing backstories and secret liaisons. Then he meets Anna (Christina Leidel), and a secret liaison of their own begins. Both are married, but are unaccompanied by their spouses in the city. The course of their relationship plays out over the course of the production. The sweetness of desire and fulfillment battles against social propriety, leading to a bittersweet ending. This is a tender, affecting story.

There is no scenery in the production; the walls are of the black box space. A red fainting couch and rug are accompanied by a red-tableclothed round table in the first play; the second play removes the tablecloth and moves the set pieces, adding three folding chairs. Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design uses a window pane gobo for the first play that does a nice job of setting the scene, but becomes a bit problematic when action moves in and out of the shadows caused by the muntins between the panes. Lighting effects are far more varied and effective in "The Yalta Game." Joan Cooper’s costumes are lovely.

As for sound, Robert Drake’s design helps to set the mood for each play. The actors are not amplified, but project well. Dialect coach Kathleen McManus (also the director of "The Bear") hasn’t done a particularly good job of getting authentic Irish accents out of the cast, though; slips into American speech patterns seem to be fairly frequent. The necessity of Irish accents can be questioned, since these are Russian people and Friel’s language doesn’t depend on Irish dialectical expressions. Ignore the accents and the acting is first-rate.

The casts seem to be uniformly thirtyish. Each play has one older character, and in "The Bear" we have Chris Schulz in age makeup and an obvious bald cap. In "The Yalta Game," Eric Lang has gray on his temples and in his goatee. The obvious artificiality in the first act immediately signals that we’re about to see an over-the-top comedy; the subtlety of the makeup in "The Yalta Game" likewise signals the subtlety of the piece that is beginning.

Directors Kathleen McManus ("The Bear") and Tim McDonough ("The Yalta Game") have done fine jobs of encouraging their actors to dig into their roles and give memorable performances. Mr. Periasamy is a force of nature onstage, balanced by Ms. Greenway’s quiet fire. Mr. Schulz’s movements are often comic shtick, but his performance flavors them with authenticity. Mr. Lang and Ms. Leidel are transcendent in their roles, making us truly care about them both.

"The Friel Deal" isn’t particularly Irish, but it does give us a chance to see some Chekhov onstage, which is a rare event in Atlanta these days. The production isn’t perfect by any means, but Mr. Periasamy and Ms. Leidel in particular give standout performances that should be seen and savored. Arís has once again created a production that deserves viewing.


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