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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Review: A Month in the Country

Chris Wasser

Aislin McGuckin as Natalya
Aislin McGuckin as Natalya

My goodness, this is a complicated love triangle. Come to think of it, there are no less than 12 characters in Brian Friel's comical adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country, and all but two of them are involved in some sort of chase. But the focus is on Natalya Petrovna.

Natalya is married to Arkady Islayev, a wealthy landowner whose luxurious country estate houses all kinds of madness. Arkady's best friend Michel has come to stay - so, too, has Arkady's son's tutor, Aleksey.

Now, here's where it gets tricky: Michel loves Natalya and Natalya is only too happy to play along, but she's really infatuated with Aleksey, him being young and handsome and all.

Natalya's teenage ward, Vera, is also mad about Aleksey, which makes Natalya jealous, which makes Michel jealous, which makes Arkady… oh, wait, he hasn't a clue what's going on.

And then there's the family doctor, Ignaty. He's after Natalya's mate. He's also trying to set an elderly neighbour up with Vera. The servants are in love, too. Does anyone else need a lie-down?

This being a 19th century, frocks-and-tights kinda deal, nobody does anything for themselves.

And did we mention the caricature German who struggles with the English language? Indeed, Turgenev's comedy of manners is a busy ensemble piece.

A melodramatic mish-mash of doomed love affairs, badly kept secrets and fractured friendships, it's not the most remarkable of plays, nor does it make much sense.

But hey, it's reasonably entertaining, especially when the great Mark O'Regan (Ignaty) steps in with those rewarding insults and one-liners.

In a play where performances range from perfunctory to chaotic (Aislin McGuckin and Nick Dunning eventually roar their heads off as Natalya and Arkady), O'Regan's sarcastic quack is a hoot.

Emotions soar high and director Ethan McSweeny just about manages to keep a lid on it all. No easy task, that.

 

Running until August 22 HHHII

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