Presented by Brown Box Theatre Project
by Stephen Dietz
Directed by Kyler Taustin
Davis Square Theatre
May 9-12 & 16-19, 2013
Review by Kitty Drexel
The Nina Variations is a strange little nugget of show presented for the approval of Anton Chekhov devotees. The plot re-imagines the last scene of The Seagull 42 different ways. It manifests on stage all possible and impossible permutations of the final scene. Three different actresses playing Nina and one actor as Boris Trigorin examine all aspects of the couple’s “love story” (Is this how people in love treat each other? Really? Ok, fine.). The result is a live fanfiction demonstration wrapped in a buttery layer of honed acting technique.
The actors acted the crap out of this production. Kara Manson, Kate Paulsen, Laura Menzie and Juan C. Rodriguez performed well; they did an excellent job with a weird script. Their performances can stand alone within the context of the show but the show itself has no backbone. It is supposed to be metaphorical commentary on a complicated relationship – and if it were paired with a modern production of the original, it could be quite revelatory. It has no legs to stand alone. The three Ninas are muses and playthings for Trigorin. He waltzes across the stage and they react to him. They are flat even with the nuances provided by the our actresses.
Theatre attempts to be something for almost everyone. The Nina Variations could be a marvelous distraction for Chekhov scholars but it won’t speak to those uninitiated in his brilliance. To be fair, the other aspects of the production are top notch. Cory Rodriguez created a simple but effective set. Thomas Blanford transformed the black box into a living spa/forrest refuge. The only element lacking was the off-putting script.