Hip Shot: The Tragical Mirth of Marriage and Love: Short Scenes By Anton Chekhov

Fort Fringe – The Shop

Remaining Performances:

Tuesday, July 16, 9:15 p.m.

Sunday, July 21, 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday, July 24, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 27, 5:00 p.m.

They say: "From The Proposal to The Wedding to The Anniversary, Chekhov examines our human impulse to make melodrama out of the crossroads in life, and the overwhelming emotion involved when in-laws enter the picture!"

Camila's Take: Stop! Don't jump to that conclusion! Whether you love him or hate him, this is not the Anton Chekhov you think you know, all fancy subtext and complex characterization. This is Chekhov the hack; Chekhov the vaudeville writer; Chekhov the crass, caricature-penning writer-for-hire. The five short plays in this show are unbelievable, overacted, absurd, and completely delightful.

Chekhov himself called some of these works "stupid" and "scabby." Well, maybe, but they're also hilarious. Pallas Theatre Collective presents the farces in high spirits: The Proposal is particularly lively, with pitch-perfect performances from David Dubov as a stuffy father, Allison S. Galen as a compulsively argumentative daughter, and Michael Boynton as a hypochondriac suitor. And for The Bear, be sure to sit in the larger section of seats so you can watch Joseph Michael Jones ham it up as an opinionated photo of a dead man.

The show claims to be centered on relationships and the redefinition of marriage—I suspect someone thought that The Tragical Mirth of Marriage & Love would sell better than Five Chekhov Farces. Of the five one-acts included, only three truly fit the theme; a meltdown in a bank is just a "maybe," and the fifth, chopped into pieces to try to keep you from noticing, has nothing to do with the subject at all.

If the theme were truly linking the pieces—which are, after all, Russian, and thus full of dismal events and unhappy people—I'd have to end with something like this: As one of the characters insists, "This is not a comedy, it's a tragedy." Marriage, the show suggests, is but a hopeful, doomed attempt at coping with the agonies of blah blah blah," but screw it. This is farce, not philosophy. That bit up above where it says "Chekhov examines our human impulse to make melodrama out of the crossroads in life"? Sure he does. And the Three Stooges explore the roots of human conflict.

Which is to say, yes: People have darkness within them; money and loneliness drive romance as much as passion does; alcohol and dishonesty are both destructive, some people are truly miserable...and it's all hilarious. Don't think about marriage politics, ignore the casual sexism, and let yourself be amused by the bawdy handling of a pistol. This is a comedy—and a damned funny one.

See it if: You like laughing at people falling down. Especially Russians.

Skip it if: You think comedy ought to be subtle and subversive. Especially Russian comedy.