By Laura Thompson
Quotidian Theatre Company is praised for its naturalistic plays, focus on “quotidian life,” and intimate staging—and The Lady with the Little Dog is no exception.
Performances will be held at 4508 Walsh Street in Bethesda, Md., July 8 through August 7 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., and an added 2 p.m. Saturday matinee on August 6. Purchase tickets: $30 Regular, $25 Seniors, $15 Students/Writer’s Center Members.
The importance of a play often lies in what goes unsaid. This is certainly the case for director Stephanie Mumford’s production of Chekhov’s classic short story. Mumford offers much more than a simply a retelling, though. Her take on The Lady with the Little Dog promises to be both charming and thoughtfully complex.
Mumford says she hopes audiences find the production, first and foremost, charming, but also thought-provoking. She hopes audiences will “care about the people—I think that’s what I like about this. Chekhov’s people are very flawed, but they’re human, and I hope they find those identifiable characteristics.” Mumford brings the narrative from paper to stage with the assistance of dialogue from other Chekhov works, as well as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
The Lady with the Little Dog tells the tale of two wealthy Russians, Dmitri Gurov and Anna Sergeyevna, who are running from dissatisfaction with their lives. Gurov is an unhappily married bureaucrat, disenchanted with his daily routine in Moscow, whilst Anna is a younger, moral woman dissatisfied with the provinciality of her home, the quiet town of Saratov. The two fall in love, against their better natures, during vacation in Yalta. Superficially, Anna and Gurov’s love is an old trope: the older man in love with the much more youthful woman. However, Mumford argues there is more to it.
The director looked for common ground in the couple’s discussions and found art. “I tried to introduce that she’s interested in art, and he has that [interest] too, having wanted to be an opera singer. I’m not inserting that, it’s in the story! But I think art…is sort of a spiritual aspect of people’s lives, it’s very important but private, and so he [Gurov] is trying to get back to that part of his soul.”
Mumford has particular affection for the play, perhaps because of her recognition of Anna and Gurov as multi-dimensional characters. She appreciates Chekhov’s take on comedy: “It’s dark humor, and it depends on how it’s played—people can take it too seriously.”
Chelsea Mayo plays Anna Sergeyevna, the titular Lady, in this QTC production; Ian Blackwell Rogers plays her romantic interest, Dmitry Dmitriyevich Gurov. Accompanying these two is the Narrator, a role designed especially for this stage adaptation using dialogue from the narrative of The Lady with the Little Dog, Anna Karenina, and more. David Dubov takes on the part—who Mumford argues is at once Chekhov and not Chekhov. This is not the only creative liberty taken.
Audiences will also be delighted by the music of talented violinist Christine Kharazian and pianist/composer Zach Roberts. Not only will they be providing a romantic, “Russian” atmosphere with their music, but they also will be jumping in and out of the production itself as active characters. Compositions by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky, have been selected to both haunt and move the audience.
Laura Thompson is a rising junior working toward a bachelor's in literature at American University, where she is a contributing writer to the American Literary Magazine and director of social media/PR for American Television Programming (ATV).