Anton Chekhov is credited with an eye for observation – not just of what is seen but particularly of the psychology underlying it. On this count, all the neatly presented five playlets dramatizing his short stories in Ouroboros’ theatre ensemble The Good Doctor in Hindi get engaging. Before the writer, who is meant to be Chekhov (Shivam Parekh, who has with Chirag Modi adapted Neil Simon’s scripts in English and directed the play) emerges on the stage, a rowdy crowd significantly of a cross-section of ordinary people climbs onto it from the aisles communicating with the audience on either side. It is from the observed world that Chekhov found his characters with all their recognizable follies, frailty and flashes of wisdom.
This is most evident in The Seduction, in which the central character, a sensuous brag (Vishal), with subtle psychological manipulation gets away with seducing married women he takes fancy to one after another – till he tries his clever tricks with confidence on the beautiful wife (Rupanshi) of an unsuspecting gullible husband (Adesh). In the unexpected Chekhovian end, the woman, who looks quietly vulnerable till the end, but shrewd for her age, has the telling last laugh through a poser that gets the audience as well thinking. The amused viewer keeps thinking what is going on in the mind of either of them.
Yes, apparently Chekhov’s plot – the framework of happenings – looks simplistic. As it does also in The Sneeze. Something of a simpleton, the clerk (Hemang) in it, with his wife (Lakshmi), tests the limits of being obsequious and servile to his boss (Nisarg) even outside office. The writer uses an innocuous sneeze to give viewers a peek into a sycophant’s mind. The ludicrous even within the framework of a farce gets hilariously amplified here and knowing that it is an attitude that is the butt of ridicule, the largely young audience in the full house uproariously eggs the actors on despite the action later dragging a bit. The directors’ presence is felt in the nonverbal expression of snobbishness by the boss’s wife (Hetal).
Chekhov feels the human pulse also in The Birthday Gift. The father (Shivam), anxious about his son’s (Hemang) manhood, pushes him to a brothel on his nineteenth birthday. The son’s nervous reluctance to explore the unknown is happily rewarded at the end when the father realizes he should hasten slowly and opts to spend money on what the son really needs at his age. A church official (Adesh) is at the mercy of a quack dentist (Dushyant) in The Surgery. The irony doesn’t go unfelt in The Drowning Man, in which a desperate young man (Dushyant) seeks to provide entertainment for money through the act of drowning and the other (Vishal) seeks entertainment t through it. Being depressing, dark comedy is not always to everyone’s liking. Projecting comic action in both, however, could be a good exercise at theatre workshops and schools.
Nearly all roles are cameo-like. The directors have shaped them pretty well. In a couple of cases, the full potential remains untapped though. The episodes assume an exhilarating third dimension when the inbuilt social (Sneeze), besides psychological (The Seduction), comments Chekhov has inserted get noticed. There is a balance between death (The Sneeze, The Drowning Man) – the Russian writer, who died at forty-four, was haunted by it – and positivity (The Seduction, The Birthday Gift), the signature quality of a great creative writer. Producer Shivam is at ease anchoring the episodes with the young players playing multiple roles. Those in charge of lights, costumes, makeup and music have made no mean contribution. Chirag and Shivam bring in a new experience, welcome to theatre enthusiasts.
Photographs courtesy: Show Producer
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