The Kinetic Theatre Company presents the American premier of Three Days in the Country, Patrick Marber’s smart and funny adaptation of Turgenev’s A Month in The Country at the New Hazlett Theatre on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
The play is set in Russia on the sprawling Islaev’s country estate in the 1840s. Natalya Petrovna, the central character, is a headstrong woman. She is married to Arkady Islaev, a rich landowner seven years her senior. Her family consists their son Koyla, and their seventeen-year-old foster Vera, who is a not so distant “relative” and their ward. Arkady’s mother Anna, her friend Lizaveta, tutors and servants also occupy the home.
She is bright but bored with life and she encourages the attentions of Mikhail Rakitin, as her devoted but resentful admirer, without ever letting their friendship develop into a love affair.
A handsome 21-year-old student Aleksei, who comes to tutor to her son Kolya, ends Natalya’s boredom. She falls in love with Aleksei, but so does Vera. Natalya considers an arrangement conveniently suggested by Shpigelsky, her doctor. He proposes that Vera should marry their rich old neighbor Bolshintsov. This would eliminate Vera as a rival for Aleksei’s attention.
Rakitin struggles with his love for Natalya, and Natalya wrestles with her’s for Ratkin and Aleksei. The young tutor seems to be happy playing the field between Natalya, Vera and the maidservant.
Doctor Shpigelsky “proposes” marriage to the spinster Lizaveta, the piano teacher, in an offering that she calls “more of a look at his undergarments, stains and all”.
This is a very busy home, active with trysts and encounters along with messy misunderstandings. When Arkady begins to the have his suspicions about is wife, both Rakitin and Aleksei are obliged to leave. The outcome is for you to discover.
Director Andrew Paul’s Three Days in the Country is a beautifully cast ensemble of players many of whom are regularly seen in Pittsburgh. Nike Doukas’ Natalya is the perfect conflicted and unfulfilled yet caring wife. Sam Tsoutsouvas’ Doctor is wonderful as Lizaveta’s suitor. David Whalen’s Arkady, Leo Mark’s Rakitin and Adam Hans Hunter’s Belyaev are all handsome enough to conflict Natalya, and yet each come across as deeply flawed characters. Katie Wieland’s Vera starts out as a naive young girl and grows to be a wise young woman. I particularly enjoyed the scene where the doctor presents his proposal and Lizaveta, played exquisitely by Pittsburgh’s Helena Ruoti dissects it with precision, as if it is a recipe for happiness. Kudos go to Will Sendera as the son. Sendera’s long list of show credits is quite impressive for a 7th grader at CAPA. He will be an actor to watch as his theatre career develops.
The New Hazlett is configured in the round for this production. Narelle Sissons set design is a basic wood planked platform, serving as both interior and exterior living spaces with a few well-choreographed changes of furniture buy the cast and crew. Lighting Designer Cindy Limauro washes the scenes in warm and cool shades subtly changing with the story’s mood. Kim Brown’s costumes feel just perfect for the period and the social classes of the players. Angela Baughman sound design is a perfectly unobtrusive underscore.
Andrew Paul’s realization of Three Days in the Country is a beautiful and nearly flawless theatrical experience. A former professor of mine would have called it a unified design concept. I would say that it just all works together perfectly. In the round staging can be a bit distracting with audience members always in view, but seldom was I distracted from the performance.
Saturday night I left the theatre wondering if one could love the production and not necessarily like the play. Upon reflection this morning, and remembering the play’s closing lines, the outcome is one not everyone will feel satisfied by. Life’s choices in the search for love and happiness don’t always end with total satisfaction. We make the best choices we can at the time. Three Days in the Country brings those choices and their consequences to life in this perfect re-mastered production of a classic.
Special thanks to Kinetic Theatre Company for complimentary press tickets. Three Days in the Country runs at the New Hazlett Theatre through December 4th. Tickets and more information can be found here.