When you’re working from a classic Anton Chekhov text, and put together a tremendous cast, it’s going to be hard to screw it up completely. Director Michael Mayer and screenwriter Stephen Karam take on Checkov’s play set in 1904 Russia, as many characters gather at the country home of ailing Sorin (Brian Dennehy)—including Sorin’s sister Irina (Annette Bening), a successful Moscow actress, and Irina’s son Konstantin (Billy Howle), a struggling would-be playwright—for various romantic complications. Saoirse Ronan (as Nina), Elisabeth Moss (as Masha) and Corey Stoll (as Trigorin) are also standouts in a version that sticks close to the source material, allowing the actors to plumb the misery of Chekhov’s heartsick characters. As terrific as many individual scenes are, however—notably Irina and Konstantin’s shifting dynamic after his suicide attempt—there’s a level on which Chekhov’s intimacy loses some potency in the transition from live theater to the screen (notwithstanding an experiment in filmed theater like Vanya on 42nd Street). You get to see some outstanding performances here by Bening, Moss and others, and now I just wish they’d take this show on the road.
Director: Michael Mayer
Producer: Leslie Urdang, Tom Hulce, Robert Salerno, Margaret Skoglund, Ron Simons, Galt Niederhoffer and Noah Millman
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Billy Howle, Elisabeth Moss, Mare Winningham, Brian Dennehy and Michael Zegen