Anton Chekhov the playwright and Anton Chekhov the short story writer are both duly represented in the 2000-01 studio season at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.
The season led off with Frank Galati's dramatization of Chekhov's story, "The Duel." The European Repertory Company production, directed by Luda Lopatina, and starring Robert Breuler, started previews Oct. 12, opened Oct. 21 and was to end end Nov. 12 but was extended to Nov. 26.
A very Chekhovian story, The Duel concerns Ivan, who is bored with life and his mistress (natch) and longs to escape to St. Petersburg (natch), but instead finds himself engaged in a duel.
Breuler has appeared in countless Steppenwolf productions. In New York, he has been seen in The Grapes of Wrath as Pa Joad, Carousel at Lincoln Center Theater, and The Song of Jacob Zulu.
* Ordinary Yearnings will be directed by Anne D. Shapiro and run Jan. 11-Feb. 11, 2001 (opening Jan. 20). The Miriam Budding of the title has a host of problems: her husband is dying, but not fast enough; one son is an over-eager cop, while the other is a forest-loving poet; and her daughter has dumped out all the vodka. Hmm...sounds a little like Chekhov.
Austin Pendleton, Sally Murphy, Jeff Perry, Rondi Reed and Mariann Mayberry -- all Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble members -- will fill the lead roles in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. The play, staged by Sheldon Patinkin, will run June 14-July 15, 2001, at the studio space.
Pendleton is well versed in the role of the long-suffering Vanya, who has wasted his life serving his pompous brother-in-law, an eminent but vacuous professor. He's played the role three times, most notably in a production at New York City's CSC Repertory in the mid-80s. Pendleton most recently appeared at Steppenwolf in Valparaiso, at the same time, his play Orson's Shadow was being staged in the theatre's Garage space.
Murphy will be the professor's young, beautiful wife, Elena. Murphy recently played a zonked-out partygoer in Broadway's The Wild Party. Other Broadway credits include Carousel and The Grapes of Wrath. Perry, a founder of the company, will be Dr. Astrov.
The Steppenwolf mainstage is currently finishing the run of its first-ever musical, The Ballad of Little Jo. Reviews were mixed, but a rave by New Yorker magazine critic John Lahr no doubt augurs a rosier future for the tuner.
Season tickets to Steppenwolf Studio productions run $48-$82. Steppenwolf is located at 1650 Halsted Street. For more information, call (312) 335-1650.