Afterplay & A Little Trick: On Tech Week and Being Human | Quotidian Theatre Company

Donna Shute

Opening tomorrow, Quotidian’s next production presents two short plays 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. The production’s stage manager, Donna Shute, examines both plays, and she finds something to love about tech week:


Tech week.

The words are enough to strike mingled fear and excitement into the heart of the most seasoned theatre professional.  For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, tech week is the week preceding Opening Night, typically the first time all of the production elements coalesce and the show is rehearsed on the set with tech, costumes, and props.  Tech week consists of four or five consecutive grueling but rewarding long nights which yield a glorious payoff at the end of the week in the form of a polished production.  It is the often-glamorless yet joyful labor of love involved in giving birth to a show – all executed on an extremely tight schedule and without benefit of an epidural.

Currently, I am privileged to be stage managing Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Afterplay and A Little Trick, opening Friday — which means as of this writing we are in the thick of tech week.  It has been a tremendous honor to watch these two shows come to life before my eyes:  A Little Trick, a tender, hauntingly beautiful memory play adapted from Chekhov’s short story of the same name, and Afterplay, a captivating character study by Brian Friel that functions as a sequel of sorts to Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, in which Sonya Serebriakoya and Andrey Prozorov meet up 25 years after the events of the plays.

A Little Trick, directed by Stephanie Mumford and featuring the talents of Jonathan Feuer, Sara Dabney Tisdale, and violinist Christine Kharazian, is a tale of young love and nostalgia that can only properly be described as enchanting.  In A Little Trick’s brief 20-minute running time, Feuer and Tisdale manage to establish a rapport and chemistry that is rare to behold, and Feuer’s  winning charisma coupled with Tisdale’s quiet grace (in the style of Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly) tell a story as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The visually compelling set, lighting, and sound design – not to mention Kharazian’s pitch-perfect violin underscoring – capture a particular moment in time in Tsarist Russia in a breathtaking and understated way.

In Afterplay, director Jack Sbarbori turns a deft artistic hand to a classic Friel script, and two experienced Quotidian veterans, Michele Osherow and David Dubov, bring to life a lovely piece layered with nuance. For even the best of actors, an entire show consisting of two characters conversing while seated in a restaurant presents some unique challenges; Osherow and Dubov sidestep these obstacles with aplomb, and even Friel’s wordier passages sparkle and pop under their expert navigation.  Moreover, Afterplay manages to be appreciable even to the uninitiated; in the interest of candor, I would cop to only a passing familiarity with Chekhov (standard reading of The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull in grad school), yet find even with that disadvantage, Afterplay is still eminently appreciable on its own merits. Dubov and Osherow’s characters really lived for me, and this exquisite little show is prismatic in all its simple yet multivalent beauty.  This is a show fundamentally about the complexities of being human, a show which calls to mind the words of Thornton Wilder: “I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” Tender and touching, Afterplay is a summer show not to be missed.

Ultimately, this tech week at Quotidian has been revelatory for me.  I’ve realized that tech week embodies and encapsulates all else that is good about theatre in a nice little nutshell;  it is the end-game in chess, where all is suddenly revealed and the strategy suddenly is laid bare.  It is the teamwork, the camaraderie, the instant alliances formed with old friends and total strangers alike, the forging of new connections, the reinforcing of old ones, the exhilarating act of creation, the innovative and expedient problem-solving, and the gruntwork that is sanctified and transformed by the end in sight.  In sum, Afterplay and A Little Trick is going to be a wonderful show, and I am beyond excited for its Opening Night.

~Donna Shute


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 five blocks from the Bethesda Metro Station on the red line. Tickets are $25, or $20 for students or seniors, paid for at the door by cash or check, please. Call 301.816.1023 or email to reserve.

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