Chekov’s Squirtgun featuring
The Proposal, On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco and The Bear by Anton Chekov
Blue Slipper Theatre, 2013
Directed & Designed by Marc Beaudin,
The Caldera Theatre Company
Bret Kinslow, Sherry Pikul & Aaron Schuerr
Director’s Note from the Program
“Chekhov wrote comedies?”
This was, almost universally, the response I got every time someone asked what play I was working on, and I said short comedies by Anton Chekhov. “Comedies? … Chekhov??”
Despite two of his best known plays, The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull, being labeled “comedy” by Chekhov himself, people insist on believing him to be a writer of serious, ponderous, high-brow tragic dramas. They’ve been taught (usually by serious, ponderous, high-brow tragic teachers and professors) that this is Literature by a great Dramatist that must be studied, analyzed, explicated – but never laughed at. And that’s the real tragedy because not only does the humor make his plays more enjoyable, it’s what makes them meaningful – it’s where their points are made. As usual, “the medium is the message.”
Chekhov’s characters are often tragic, but it is a tragedy of their own making, a tragedy that comes from their own egotism, greed, delusions or pettiness, and that’s where the humor resides. In the plays in this selection, there is no shortage of these qualities, though the characters themselves would describe them as “principle” and “loyalty.” And within the comedy of the characters’ self-inflicted tragedy, the plays (though really just simple farces or “vaudevilles” as Chekhov called them) become something more. They become filled with morality, humanity and commonality (for which of us haven’t, from time to time, created our own petty tragedies?).
They become something worthy of the serious, ponderous, artist that Chekhov also is.