In a play marking the centenary of Chekhov’s death, Sasha, a dying 19th century Russian artist, wants an heir by his enchanting, married, and adulterous maid. Honey, a recovering 20th century American psychiatric patient, fears not only that her husband is a serial adulterer but that he may have murdered one of his lovers.
Their two worlds collide when Sasha’s dinner party ghost story is realised during a lunar eclipse. The white/greying set emulates the decay gnawing at these worlds as walls and door lintels crumble. Characters from both eras cohabit scenes, only realising each others’ presence at the lake – fabulously atmospheric as floorboards are raised, lighting dimmed, made blue, creating shadows. The play works with reality and its creation. As Honey spills borscht, the scene shifts to Sasha suffering what seems to be a simultaneous throat haemorrhage.
Film sequences offer what could be dreams, desires, portents, predictions, although these intentions are never clear. Angela Clerkin delivers a humorous and occasionally thoughtful portrayal as Olga, a stifled, grasping, probably talentless wife, but is sadly upstaged by her costume for the first act. The incompetence of the priest’s hideously false beard and hair is distracting.
However, Jim Kitson gives a good and uncomfortable performance as Honey’s cheating, lewd and egotistical husband, while Jane Arnfield is excellent as the traumatised Honey. She steals the opening scene – uninhibitedly and manically dancing to loud rock – and is capable of deep seated grief, loyalty, subtlety and humour. This is a production to interest, rather than stun.