A Month in the Country at Classic Stage Company
The timing of Classic Stage Company’s casting of the two leads in Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country could not be better. Taylor Schilling, recent recipient of a Screen Actors Guild Award (along with her fellow Orange is the New Black inmates) plays Natalya, the conflicted heroine and Peter Dinklage, the most charming and dangerous member of Game of Thrones’ Lannister clan, is Mikhail, the neighbor who loves her. The two are talented, have stage presence and chemistry – it would be interesting seeing the two in Miss Julie – but it is only when they interact that the play comes alive.
The problem is the play itself. Occasionally, CSC uses a modernized translation to make a production trendy (a disservice they have repeatedly done to Molière); Christopher Jones’ translation is unembellished and clear. Natalya is restless from inactivity, something which should be brimming with dramatic possibilities. However, Turgenev keeps her a one-dimensional hysteric, never exploring the social or psychological reasons behind her behavior as other writers did in their work in 1872 (when adapting his 1855 novel for the stage). To her credit, Schilling does everything possible to flesh her out and never seeks the audience’s sympathy. Mikhail knows her well enough and accepts her moodiness, which reaches its peak with the hiring of Aleksay (Mike Faist) to tutor her son Koyla (Ian Etheridge) for…a month in the country. She falls in love with the 21-year-old, as does teenage foster daughter Vera (Megan West), yet the resulting situation has neither tension nor passion.
Director Erica Schmidt does not do enough with this linear plot. The rest of the impressive cast, including Anthony Edwards as Natalya’s husband Arkady, Tony-winner Elizabeth Franz as Arkday’s mother Anna, and Annabella Sciorra as Anna’s paid companion Lizaveta, are already at a disadvantage because there is so little to do. Here, they further blur into the background. Therefore, when they do have something important to say it comes across as forced, almost comedic.
Inertia causes revolution. It also causes audience boredom.
Photos: Joan Marcus
A Month in the Country is on at Classic Stage Company until 28th February 2015, for further information or to book visit here.