The Chekhov Project: The Proposal, The Bride-to-be, The Wedding Reception

From 02/27/1998 to 03/15/1998


Linked by the themes of brides and weddings, THE CHEKHOV PROJECT features three short works portraying Chekhov’s objective and irreverent observations of the institution of marriage.


The reviews are in.

“I went to Cuba for New Year’s, and sat on the beach trying to read Chekhov,” laughs Frank Theatre artistic director Wendy Knox, as if she’d just described trying to sell tampons at a Promise Keepers rally. “It was impossible.” At the time, Knox was in the preparatory stages of her newest production, the functionally titled CHEKHOV PROJECT, which opened last weekend at the Southern Theater. Buckling under the “cognitive dissonance” of reading Chekhov beneath a palm tree, Knox put the work on hold until returning to the more Chekhovian Minnesotan clime, where she set about planning her virgin dalliance with the seminal Russian author.

“For those unfamiliar with Frank Theatre, it should be noted that Knox, an extremely sharp and reliable fixture in the alternative theater scene, never does anything the normal way. This time out, the one-woman theater company enlisted a “think tank” of friends to take a look at the range of the physician/writer’s work, including his full-length plays, one-acts, and numerous short stories. But instead of homing in on any particular piece, Knox began to detect connective tissue between Chekhov’s shorter works. “The short story was really Chekhov’s form,” says Knox, who found herself charmed by the wit betrayed in these encapsulated sketches. “People don’t think of Chekhov as funny, but he’s got a great, dry sense of humor. The great plays are misinterpreted, and that’s what gives him a bad rep as being this dark, boring writer.

“I started thinking there was an opportunity to do something a little more original,” Knox says, “with all these great weirdos sitting around the table.” Among these weirdos numbered the theatrical Renaissance man Michael Sommers (who helped design the set), choreographer Laurie Van Wieren (known for her poignantly absurd character-dances), and Southern Theater lighting designer Jeff Bartlett.

“Another of these freaks was Kira Obolensky, a playwright who descends from a grand, blue-blooded Russian clan that was forced to flee Russia and refused permission to return until 1993. Knox and Obolensky ultimately decided to mount wedding-themed one-acts and connect them with a short-story adaptation, to be penned by Obolensky. The writer pounced on the task. “I gave it to her on Friday,” Knox recalls. “She was deathly ill, and by Monday she had 20 pages. She’s taken this story and made this great, new little Chekhov play.”
Kate Sullivan, City Pages

“In his 44 years, Russian writer and doctor Anton Chekhov did two equally amazing things: cured people and created characters. The all too human, quirky folks who populate his plays, short stories, and novels are often comic and tragic in the same breath. That duality is notoriously difficult to realize, as anyone who has suffered through a tortuously long, glum evening of staged Chekhov will attest. Suffer no more: with her “Chekhov Project,” director Wendy Knox of Frank Theatre goes a long way toward changing what she calls his ‘bad rap for being a drag’.”
Tim Claussen, Star Tribune