In Focus: Chekhov's Heartache

Dean Gilour, Michelle Smith, Claire Calnan and Monica Dotter in Chekhov's Heartache

To whom shall I tell my grief? The opening line of Chekhov's Heartache comes after a long look to the audience from actor and Artistic Director Dean Gilmour. The look is almost playful and childlike and tells us right away that the question has several meanings. We know, from that moment on, that the play will be layered with many visual and mental stimulants told on many levels. And that it was.

Chekhov's Heartache, brought to us by the Dora award winning group Theatre Smith-Gilmour, is a beautiful and heart wrenching look at the peasant perspective in Russia. Visually stunning, the three stories are told like a piece of music. They flow wonderfully and are smooth and pleasing to both see and hear.

The play is the fourth one created by the company that is based on Chekhov's texts. It shows. There are three stories being told here. All relate to the difficulties of poverty. The physical excellence and simplicity of performances only accentuate the beauty of the story. The lighting design captures the essence of the production, with its gloomy and stark appearance. Each story highlights the talents of the quartet that have unquestionably tapped into the master playwrights true vision of life.

I spoke with Monica Dotter, one of the performers, on their intentions with the peice, next on its way to Russia to be performed at the 2007 Chekhov International Theatre Festival.

JG - In your own words, what is this show about?
MD - Based on the short stories of Anton Chekhov, including "Peasants" and "Peasant Women", Theatre Smith-Gilmour brings to life depictions of the brutality of rural life among 19th Century Russian peasants living after the emancipation. The great thing about staging these short stories is that they deal with the lives of the peasants. A lot of Chekhov's plays deal with the aristocracy, so it is great to see this side of life in Russia post serfdom. And in these stories, Chekhov gave the women a voice which was very progressive of him, even by today's standards.

JG - What were your intentions in putting this up?
MD - This is probably more of a question for the producers since I was just hired by the company as an actor/creator, but I do know that it was the intention of the producers to revisit and rework the show.

JG - What should the audience expect to leave the show thinking or feeling?
MD - This is a really difficult question to answer, especially since interpretation of art is so subjective and personal. I expect that it will be different for everyone. I can only hope to do the best job that I can to create the characters and tell the story in the most precise way possible. There is something very magical in the way these stories are told and if the audience leaves the show feeling something or if they've been tempted to use their imaginations, then I would be satisfied.

Chekhov's Heartache is playing at the Factory Theatre Until October 22.

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