Common Hatred at the Ruckus | Theater review
The Ruckus’s purposefully Chekhovian drama is sincerely imitative but isn’t flattering.
A Chekhov play is more than just the sum of its parts. In their effort to create an explicitly Chekhovian family drama set in the contemporary U.S., the Ruckus ensemble and playwright Calamity West take plot elements from the Russian playwright’s best-known works and mash them together into a disjointed, clichéd script. The play begins with three siblings gathering on the anniversary of their parents’ deaths (Three Sisters) to celebrate their brother’s birthday, which coincides with him winning a National Book Award (The Seagull). As the four seasons roll by, the fate of their house (Uncle Vanya) and a rotting tree in their front yard (The Cherry Orchard) become major plot points.
Devised by the ensemble, the script shows an appreciation for Chekhov’s works, but that doesn’t translate to a gripping story. Karie Miller’s inactive staging features characters constantly staring out of windows and delivering long speeches to no one in particular, even when they’re not alone in a room.
Given the plot’s broad scope, exposition becomes a chore, with characters recounting the past to newcomer Sean (Aaron Dean). Sean’s only purpose is to serve as a sounding board, and he’s quickly written out in the last scene. Yet while Dean plays the show’s least-developed character, he also gives the most natural performance, with an unsettling presence that stands out in the flood of theatrical convention.