The Brute and Other Farces
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

Anyone who is single, feeling lonely and wishing they could find a significant other to spend the rest of their life with should go see The Brute and Other Farces by Anton Chekhov now playing at Walnut Creek’s Playhouse West. These four one act plays will cure you of ever thinking about love and marriage again.

“I found out about women,” says George McRae playing the part of a man trying to collect money owed him by a widow’s departed husband in The Brute. “They’re liars.”

The two argue on and on until it gets so heated that they decide to shoot it out in a duel. Only then does this apparent woman hater, played by McRae, realize how attractive this feisty woman is and how much he likes the widow.

“I can fall in love with you,” he says.

“I hate you,” she says. “We’ll shoot it out!”

Sex and violence, love and hate are blended into high comedy by Chekhov’s writing talent and insights into human relationships.

In The Marriage Proposal, the same two actors play different parts. McRae plays a 35 year old man feeling the desperate need to get married so he goes to the house of his neighbor in hopes of proposing marriage to his neighbor’s aging daughter (Eismann). But it’s fight at first sight for the two of them, arguing about land, hunting dogs and everything you can imagine. There is no brief honeymoon period with this couple. They’re at each other’s throats even before the proposal. Of course Chekhov is aware of the more primal level to love/hate relationships and you can see subtle flashes of attraction cross the couple’s faces the more heated the argument becomes.

In The Harmfulness of Tobacco, Morgan Mackay plays the part of a lecturer. His topic is suppose to be on how tobacco is bad for you, but he continuously strays to the aching subject of his wife and how she has abused him during his 33 years of married blisters. “When she’s in a bad mood she calls me dumbbell,” he says pausing a moment to gather his thoughts. “My wife is always in a bad mood.” The timing is perfect and the audience laughs, but the magic of Chekhov is that he draws you into his characters’ lives. You really feel for what they’re going through, giving a depth to the laughter. You realize that there by the grace of God go I.

Swan Song takes that depth even further as we sympathize with an old actor played by Robert Parnell. One of the stories he tells is of a woman he begged to marry him. She agrees if he’s willing to give up the theatre, and so ends another man/woman relationship. But here the main theme is what it’s like to grow old. In spite of his pains and regrets, the old actor realizes above all that: “Where there’s talent there’s no such thing as old age.”

All four of these plays directed by Lois Grandi, are packed with some of the best acting talent in the Bay Area. Don’t miss this joyous celebration in Playhouse West’s newly remodeled theatre. For tickets or more information call (925) 942-0300 or visit www.playhousewest.org.

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