Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: (Toronto) A Misfortune (Next Stage)

by Beat Rice

It would be a misfortune to miss A Misfortune. Common Descent presents a new musical adapted from a story by Anton Chekhov. It is a very well written musical. It is not just the libretto that tells the story but also, and mostly, the musical style that do. The overture, played by just a cello (Brian Holt) and a piano (Chris Tsujiuchi), sets a romantic and lonely tone with soaring, almost orchestral arpeggios. Who knew that the two instruments could create such a big and beautiful sound that instantly transports us to a different time and place. It also helps that all the design elements by Joanna Yu, came together to tell a story about the period. Period costumes and furniture set against a beautiful and simple arched window façade was all the show needed.
In this story we meet five Russians, all whom are part of an upper middle class society. The story is one we have heard before in many forms; a young man (Jordan Till) loves Sofya (Trish Lindstrom), who is married to an older gentleman (Rejean Cournoyer). Sofya has conflicting feelings about her duty and her desires. She goes about, dissatisfied with her routine life, but still behaves and acts amicably towards her husband. On the other hand, there are their friends, (Kaylee Harwood and Adam Brazier), a couple who are so passionate about each other they are constantly at each other's throats, loving and hating each other all the time. 

A Misfortune explores how love manifests in different people, and how it truly brings out the strangest  behaviour. The show has many funny moments, but also a few profound moments. At one point Ivan, the young lawyer who desires the married Sofya, asks her to make almost absurd sacrifices purely in the name of love. It is always fun to watch feelings trample over rationale onstage, especially when vodka is involved. 

The entire cast all have expressive voices, which, together with the music, could tell the story even to an audience who may not understand the libretto. A Misfortune is also a unique way of approaching Chekhov. Adapting his story into a musical helped me better understand the worlds of the characters in his other classic works I was forced to read in school. I always appreciate a shift in perspective. 

A Misfortune is at Next Stage to January 19

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