The Bear is a short play about Smirnov, a rude merchant who turns up at the estate of Yelena Popova in order to obtain money owed to him by Popova's late husband. Popova, however, does not have the money, and asks him to return in a few days. Smirnov, who considers all women ``affected and deceitful,'' does not leave, insisting that he get repaid immediately. But against his better judgement, Smirnov is smitten by the widow. In turn, Popova, who vowed upon her husband's death ``never to look at the light of day again,'' warms to the crude creditor.
The Importance of Being Earnest (presented here in a severely edited version), is the marvelously witty story of John Worthing and his friend Algernon Moncrieff, who both take on the name Ernest in order to win the hearts of their respective loves, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, two young ladies who are certain they could never be happy married to a man who was named something other than Ernest.
The productions of the two plays were economical beyond measure. Of the two productions, The Importance Of Being Earnest
came off the better. Directed by J. Brandon Hill, the piece moved swiftly and stylishly. The performances were generally good, with Vincent Bagnall standing out as an appropriately charming and slippery Algernon. Sharon Becker was also very good as a coquettish Gwendolen. Steve Hasley and Hal Smith-Reynolds fared well as John Worthing and The Rev. Canon Chasuble, respectively. The costumes for the piece (no designer was credited) were also well done.
The production of ``The Bear'' was a somewhat different matter. Although Chekhov's play is charming, the lack of anything resembling a set hurt the production a great deal. The performances were uneven as well. Andrew Rothkin, as Smirnov, was energetic and demonstrative in a very difficult role. However, while Darra Herman was stunning to look at, she seemed to be having some trouble with the role of Popova. While there was a hint of charm, and a great deal of physical beauty, she often had trouble with her lines, and seemed unsure of where she should be standing.
It should be noted that the most versatile actor of the evening was Paul Goncalves, who played three different servants over the course of both shows, and played them in the most distinctly different ways imaginable.
Copyright 1996 John Attanas
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