“She began dressing, too. Only now, looking at her, Kovrin realised the danger of his position — realised the meaning of the black monk and his conversations with him. It was clear to him now that he was mad.” —Anton Chekhov, “The Black Monk” (1894)
Timeless works such as The Seagull and Uncle Vanya confirm Anton Chekhov’s reputation as a master playwright, but to lovers of literature the Russian writer’s greatest creations will always be his short stories. Innovative, evocative, and meaningful, Chekhov’s stories influenced entire generations of premier English-language writers: Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Carver, to name but a few. On the page, Chekhov’s best shorts contain all the drama and subtext of his plays. Tony Award–winning playwright David Rabe (an alum of local Villanova University) adapted “The Black Monk,” an exemplar of Chekhov’s mastery of the short story form, into a new stage piece. It’s no surprise the result has been praised across the country since its 2003 premiere.
Rabe’s The Black Monk is receiving its first Philadelphia-area staging April 10–29, 2012, as the concluding entry in Simpatico Theatre Project‘s 7th season. The piece is directed by Simpatico AD Allen Radway, who excelled with last season’s productions of Evie’s Waltz and David Mamet’s The Cryptogram. The cast includes former Royal Shakespeare Company actor David Howey as horticulturist Yegor Pesotsky, and two talented young actors who have risen fast in the local theater scene as Pesotsky’s daughter Tanya (Sarah Van Auken) and her suitor, the protagonist Andrei Vasilich Kovrin (Matt Lorenz).
Described as “a cautionary story about human legacy and the true nature of artistic creation,” the adaptation has by all accounts captured the soul of Chekhovian drama with Rabe’s “most haunting and poetic play to date.” Sympatico’s production promises a sure hit.
The Black Monk
by David Rabe, adapted from the story* by Anton Chekhov
directed by Allen Radway
Simpatico Theatre Project
at the First Baptist Church theater
17th & Sansom Streets, Philadelphia
April 10–29, 2012
*At over 10,000 words, “The Black Monk” is also described as a novella