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    Darrel Stokes, Zenzelé Cooper, and Laura Wickens in Nick in Nick
    Darrel Stokes, Zenzelé Cooper, and Laura Wickens in "Nick"

    Nick of Time

    Blessed Unrest's "Nick" is a vodka-swilling, poker-playing, gun-toting, lady-swapping adaptation of a Chekhov classic.


    Blessed Unrest's production of "Nick" is billed as a contemporary adaptation of Chekhov's "Ivanov" from the original Russian by Laura Wickens. However, the only clearly contemporary elements of this production are the popular song and dance breaks sprinkled throughout. The staging is so fluid that location and time are not only lost, but downright confusing.

    Company: Blessed Unrest.
    Written by: Laura Wickens.
    Directed by: Jessica Burr.
    Based on Ivanov by: Anton Chekhov.
    Cast: Zenzelé Cooper, Anna Kepe, Eunjee Lee, Nick Micozzi, John Peery, Peter Richards, Matthew Sincell, Darrell Stokes, Laura Wickens, Hannah Wilson.
    Choreography by: Kelly Hayes.
    Sound design by: Wei Wang.
    Set design by: Anna-Alisa Belous.
    Costumes by: Anna-Alisa Belous.
    Lighting design by: Benjamin C. Tevelow.
    Production stage manager: JaimieVan Dyke.
    Video Design: C. Andrew Bauer.
    Violence Consultation: Matt Opatrny.

    Related links: Official site
    That being said, "Nick" does resonate with modern sensibilities via adept characterizations, established through strong writing and acting. The main character, Nick Ivanov (Darrell Stokes) is thirty-five, hopelessly bored, and beyond unproductive. This is a type of malaise rarely exhibited by characters on television, but all-too common in daily life. Stokes doesn't play the role with the irony of an emo blog, but applies a psychological realism aesthetic to the language and character. Unfortunately, the apparent effort to render Nick as a "realistic" everyman, results in a performance that fades in comparison to those of his cast-mates, who comically push their characters' foibles to the edge between absurd and believable.

    "Nick" pays a wonderful homage to Chekhov's sense of humor, but still maintains a cultural and historic specificity that keeps the comedy fresh.  

    When the actors achieve this balance, "Nick" pays a wonderful homage to Chekhov's sense of humor, but still maintains a cultural and historic specificity that keeps the comedy fresh. For instance, the politician and father figure of the play, Pavel, brilliantly played by Matthew Sincell, draws upon desperate sitcom dads like Al Bundy to push into the realm of the comically absurd without crossing the edge of believability.

    Most of the supporting cast makes bold, dynamic acting choices that pull the play through a laboriously slow first act. Sasha, the ingenue (Zenzelé Cooper) provides a stark and vibrant contrast to the other depressive characters. The Count, played by John Peery, is entertainingly flamboyant in a way that brought out unusual undertones in the story. Zina (Anna Kepe), the millionaire wife of Pavel, commands both her husband and the stage with incredible strength. Hannah Wilson, who plays the widow Martha, is perhaps too darn cute for the role, but has enough comic talent to make the miscasting forgivable.

    The second act is considerably stronger than the first, possibly because the location is firmly established and consistent throughout the act, and because it features so heavily the already fleshed-out supporting cast. The play pulls together nicely in the last few moments, when Chekhov's famous gun finally goes off. It is a complex ending that allows for multiple resonances to operate simultaneously, thereby deepening the emotional palette available for the audience to enjoy.

    JUNE 3, 2009

    Reader comments on Nick:

  • Nick   from Howard Haas, Jun 10, 2009

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