Quotidian’s next production is a double dose of theatre inspired by Anton Chekhov. In Brian Friel’s Afterplay, the Dancing at Lughnasa playwright imagines a meeting between two of Chekhov’s characters. Afterplay will be presented in tandem with A Little Trick, a memory play about lost love adapted from Chekhov’s short story of the same name.
Playing the role of Andrey in Afterplay is David Dubov, who will report for us on his experiences over the course of Afterplay‘s rehearsal process as he did for Dancing at Lughnasa‘s. Here, David recounts a connection he made with his fellow actor Michele Osherow while waiting for director Jack Sbarbori to arrive at a rehearsal and explores why Afterplay is such an engaging piece of writing.
Jack called to say that he would be late. “You and Michele can start working. I’ll be there shortly.”
A couple of minutes later, Michele rang the doorbell, and we sat down in the dining room. (We’re rehearsing Afterplay at my house, since there are only two of us in the cast, and it is set in a café — mostly at a table. Not much room needed.)
As people waiting usually do, we began to get to know each other better: asking questions about family, houses, gardens, the future: the small details of life that we share in our suburban Maryland neighborhood. We chattered on until Jack joined us and we got down to the business of rehearsal.
Those few moments of trivial conversation have stuck with me over the last few rehearsals. Not because of anything we discussed in particular, but because it resonated so deeply with the work we went on to rehearse that night.
In Afterplay, Friel deftly imagines two characters from two different Chekhov plays meeting a number of years after they finish their respective turns in the limelight. Sonya Aleksandrovna from Uncle Vanya and Andrey Sergeyevich from Three Sisters come together for a brief moment in a café in Moscow and discover their subsequent lives have many parallel threads of grief, despair and, yes, even hope.
Not a wildly action-packed frolic, or an epic tragedy, or even a witty drawing-room comedy, Afterplay is a simple, understated, and very powerful two-person gem of a piece.
Working on it from the inside, I’ve found the play projects that power through two methods:
1. The Fascination of “What Happens Next?”
We’ve all done it — wondered, even yearned to know what happened to our favorite characters from books, movies, plays, etc. after the final word was read, seen, or heard. I distinctly remember aching to know what happened to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird for years after I read it. (It was only later that I, dim child that I was, realized that the book is told as a memory of the adult Scout… so she must have turned out alright.) Friel evidently is fascinated with these two Chekhov characters and, as a playwright, is able to do our imaginings one better in Afterplay. He allows the characters to tell their stories themselves.
2. The Simplicity of the Tale
Even though Sonya Aleksandrovna and Andrey Sergeyevich have built-in backstories and we are primed to know what happened to them, Friel’s genius is to move beyond just a recounting of the events inherent in the passage of years. He makes the intimate connection of these two lonely people the focus of the story, aligning the little moments of their lives along a parallel course — at least for the brief encounter we see in the play. No ornamentation, no histrionics, no melodrama.
As for me, I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen as Michele and I take this journey through a brilliant play. More about that next time!
Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Afterplay and A Little Trick runs July 20 – August 19. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm, with one added 2pm performance on Saturday, August 18. All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. There is ample parking across the street (free on weekends), and the theatre is just blocks away from the Bethesda Metro Station on the red line. Tickets are just $25, or $20 for students or seniors, paid for at the door in cash or by check. Call 301.816.1023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve.