Literature, live

Romance With Double-Bass

Book-It Repertory Theater

ends May 2

Besides eight plays, Anton Chekhov wrote more than 600 stories, chronicles of life in pre-Communist Russia. The master storyteller created unforgettable characters with a breadth of understanding and compassion; whether good, bad, or indifferent, they strive for something noble in the everyday, in the absurd, and in the ways of love. Book-It, whose commitment to adapting literature directly from the page to the stage smacks of an acquired taste (it leaves in the "he saids"), considers four Chekhov stories in an exuberant collage: "Romance with Double-Bass"; "Anyuta"; "The Chorus Girl"; and "The Grasshopper." The company steers the audience from one tale to the next seamlessly, through many double roles and quick dress changes. "Bass" begins and ends the evening with comic relief, as two skinny-dippers (one, the scrawny bass player in full-length skivvies) fall in love, but it's Betsy Schwartz in "Grasshopper" who steals the show as Olga Ivanovna, a young married woman so seduced by the culture of celebrity that she betrays her hard-working husband. Schwartz's complex and passionate performance ran the gamut from jubilant to desperate as her aspirations slipped out of reach. In Chekhov, Book-It has found a writer compatible with its mission—one whose language is shaded carefully and gracefully, and whose stories continue to fulfill when performed.

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