Three Days in the Country Review – The Summer Heat Sizzles

Anna Khaja and Daniel Blinkoff in THREE DAYS IN THE COUNTRY - Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Based on Ivan Turgenev’s five-act play, “A Month in the Country,” THREE DAYS IN THE COUNTRY telescopes the action, ups the comic relief, and brings nineteenth century estate life into twenty-first century focus. Playwright Patrick Marber – a multi-talented English comedian, playwright, director, actor, and screenwriter – has taken the classic Turgenev work and adapted it into a piece that modern audiences can relate to. Turgenev, born into an impoverished but noble Russian family, clearly understood what day-to-day life was for both the aristocrats and serfs of his time. His Chekhovian approach predated author Chekhov by decades. Well over a century later, Marber has retained Turgenev’s keen insights into the fashions and foibles of his time – while adding smiles and sexual exploits more in keeping with today’s audiences.

Peter Mendoza and Ellis Greer – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

It’s the middle of the nineteenth century Russia on a bucolic country estate. The pretty, headstrong, and very bored Natalya (Anna Khaja) and her wealthy workaholic husband Arkady (Daniel Blinkoff) are spending some time in the family’s summer home. They are surrounded by some family members, including Arkady’s mother Anna (Reba Waters Thomas), Natalya’s troubled ten-year-old son Kolya (Marcello Silva), and Natalya’s 17-year-old ward Vera (Chelsea Kurtz). It just so happens that Natalya has also invited her old flame Rakitin (Corey Brill), who never gave up trying, to add spice to the summer barbecue. And let’s not forget Vera’s young, handsome, and dashing tutor Belyaev (Peter Mendoza) – virile arm candy who draws every woman’s eye when he enters a room.

Anna Khaja and Corey Brill – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Stir together the visitors to the manor, the serfs who keep the food coming and the place clean, an elderly affluent neighbor seeking a wife, and the various nobility hangers-on, and you have a recipe for mayhem. Lessons in love abound – maternal, marital, sexual – and first love with all the bells and whistles. Despite Natalya’s predictions, this will prove to be anything but a boring weekend.

Harry Groener and Dawn Didawick – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Helmed by director Andrew Paul, the 13-member cast do an excellent job of giving the audience a peek into Russian life of the era. No one could be more bored – and ready for a little action – than Natalya. No one could be blinder to the world around him than Arkady. No one could be more innocent and naïve than Vera. No one could look more like “sex in a bottle” than Belyaev – and his quick pick, the very willing serf Katya (Ellis Greer) who makes eating a plum a special treat.

Chelsea Kurtz and Peter Mendoza – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

The first act was a bit slow as each of the 13 characters made his entrance and showed a sample of his style. However, the second act more than made up for any sluggish spots in the first. Kudos to the duet between physician Shpigelsky (Harry Groener) and Lizaveta (Dawn Didawick), which kept the audience roaring as the doctor listed his each and every fault in his marriage proposal to a spinster who might just take him up on it – or not. Perhaps the fact that the couple are married in real life added that extra soupcon of fun. THREE DAYS IN THE COUNTRY manages to poke fun at the estate’s residents – but with a bittersweet quality and a compassion for their humanity. Perhaps it also reminds us that people are people, regardless of time, place, and circumstances.

Harry Groener and Corey Brill – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

The entire production team deserves congratulations for costumes (A. Jeffrey Schoenberg), lighting (Jared A. Sayeg), and sound (Chris Moscatiello) – with special thanks to scenic designer Se Hyun Oh, who added a built-up stage to contain the action. The Antaeus Theatre Company has again skillfully succeeded in bringing the classics to the contemporary stage.

Peter Mendoza and Anna Khaja – Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

THREE DAYS IN THE COUNTRY runs through August 28, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursday (August 23 only), at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is located at 110 East Broadway, Glendale, CA 91205. Tickets are $30 and $34. For information and reservations, call 818-506-1983 or go online.

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