Monday, February 18, 2013

Say Protopopov Five-Times, Fast

Reading a script by Checkov is weird.

I'd forgotten this in the years since I last did it. Any self-respecting professional actor is well up on their Checkov. Unlike them, I write a blog, and honesty makes for more interesting entries than self-respect. I'm pretty sure the last and only time I read anything by the man was in high school, when we were assigned The Cherry Orchard. I didn't understand much of it, and our teacher told us, that's okay, the playwright wrote it thinking it was a comedy, and the first director thought it was a tragedy. So if you don't get it, you're not alone.

Fast forward to last week. I'd just come from a rehearsal for the one-act festival I was in that weekend to a birthday party in a turn-of-the-century house in Brooklyn, where my friend, Jessica, invited me on board to play Vershinin in a site-specific staged read of Three Sisters, opposite her Masha.

My now ex-girlfriend playing Irina in college taught me most of what I knew about the play. That was very little, mostly because I was studying abroad in India during her entire rehearsal process and run of the show. I knew that it had been a mind-blowing experience for her, and that she played the youngest of three sisters who seemed to spend most of their time Not Going To Moscow.

So tapped my way to Project Gutenberg using my newly hacked e-reader, and downloaded a free copy to read on the subway. After four acts of trying to decipher oddly self-centered monologues and seemingly random bouts of laughter and tears interspersed in the dialogue for seasoning, I scratched my head and hoped that we had a really good director.

Luckily, we do. When said director, Nicole, told me she'd spent four years studying in the Moscow Arts Theater, I knew we were probably in good hands. I just spent this afternoon with the actors playing the sisters and the man playing the youngest sister's main suitor, Tuzenbach. It's amazing how this play starts to make so much more sense when you read it out loud with a good director and cast. For one thing, those seemingly self-centered monologues suddenly work their way into the relationships between characters instead of watching them take turns grandstanding. The refresher course on Russian triple names and diminutives didn't hurt, either.

The reading is going be in an old rickety house in Brooklyn, with the audience invited to the party, which morphs from a regular Brooklyn house party in an awesome setting to Irina's name day party in the first scene of the play. They can then follow us from room to room as we read the main action, though some might want to explore and see some of the "Etudes" we're developing of off-stage action between characters. A little like a tiny Sleep No More in terms of audience experience.

It's going to be a good reading, and it's going to be this Friday, 7pm. Space is very limited, so contact me if you're in town and want to see it.