What do two drawing rooms, a bank office, and several barely pronounceable names have in common? They’re all elements of the latest show by the Algonquin College Theatre Arts students as they mount a production of three short plays by Anton Chekov – collectively called 33 Swoons.
Should you see it?
In play number one, The Proposal, a young man visits the home of his esteemed neighbor to ask for the hand of his daughter in marriage. All seems to be going well until the land disputes start and arguments about who has the highest pedigree of hunting dog follow.
In play number two, The Bear, a recluse widow, seven months to the day of becoming such, is visited by a man desperate to reclaim some coin her deceased husband had borrowed. The two of them have an immediate and immense hatred for each other that is quickly joined by an equally intense attraction.
In play number three, The Jubilee, a blowhard bank manager and his feeble and misogynistic underling are preparing to celebrate the bank’s prosperous recent history. The bank manager’s chatty Cathy wife enters, just returned from a trip with stories she simply must tell, followed by a woman who’s husband was recently laid off and plainly can’t be gotten rid of until she’s heard and received recompense.
What we learn through all three tales is that apparently the Russians are not a hardy nation of people. They all seem to have debilitating heart conditions or are otherwise prone to involuntarily passing out, hence the title of the production.
All right, so that joke I opened with pretty weak. I’ll admit that. What wasn’t weak was the humour and performances in this production. While there was a definite decrease in outright funny as we moved from play to play (and the third play had an ending that pushed my strange meter a little passed believability) they all had their share of good laughworthy moments.
The production recycled four actors through the production. Jonah Lerner and Erin MadDonald had great timing, felt completely into the era, tone, and character, and so were truly wonderful to watch in both plays that they had significant roles in. Caitlin O’Brien was also a treat, playing both the solemn yet hard-tempered widow and gossipy / kind of air-headed wife of the bank manager distinctly. Phil Hughes was the only actor to have significant roles in all three plays and while he had some really great moments, there were also a few moments, mostly at the very beginning of the night, where I just wasn’t feeling him.
Those four were joined by Jeremy Piamonte who had minor roles in two of the plays and Shannon Collins who took part in a cutely choregraphed number (with Piamonte) to transition between the first two plays.
The tone and humour of the plays are certainly a product of their times (late 19th Century Russia) with quarrels over land disputes and duels and the like, but are nonetheless very entertaining and a good time in the hands of this cast.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think? Which of these one-acts had you laughing the hardest? Was I completely out to lunch? Tell me in the comments below.
As of publishing, you have one single chance left to see 33 Swoons at Algonquin College. You can find out all the details including ticket info, in our preview article.