The Proposal, The Bear, and A Reluctant Tragic Hero | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Proposal, The Bear, and A Reluctant Tragic Hero 

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THE PROPOSAL, THE BEAR, AND A RELUCTANT TRAGIC HERO, TinFish Theatre. Anton Chekhov's short comedies hold up well because he painted them in large, broad strokes, and his one-acts have an almost universal appeal. Of course it helps that neither social mores nor the basic rules of comedy have changed drastically in the last century.

Still, Chekhov's farces are undeniably models of theatrical efficiency--direct, exacting, and beautiful in their simplicity. Of the three offerings in this evening by TinFish, The Proposal is clearly the best: it's one of the playwright's stronger pieces, and unlike The Bear and A Reluctant Tragic Hero, it allows the actors to flex some dramatic muscle.

But in the hands of directors Laurie Kladis and Dejan Avramovich, each one-act inevitably ends with the actors yelling at the top of their lungs, seemingly engaged in a contest to determine who can scream the loudest. Kladis and Avramovich have opted to highlight only the most superficial, slapstick elements of Chekhov's work, ensuring that none of the scenes presented is the least bit lifelike. And despite the cast's best efforts, none of these one-acts is funny. In fact, this misguided production succeeds only in draining Chekhov's works of all their depth, humor, and charm. --Nick Green

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