The European Repertory Company’s U.S. premiere of this contemporary Russian play features such extraordinary performances that the piece is utterly absorbing despite its flaws in construction. Playwright Nikolay Kolyada’s imitation of Chekhov is not only sincere flattery, it’s reasonably accomplished: he succeeds in creating two characters as nuanced and fully human as any from the master’s pen. In such a pitch-perfect production it’s forgivable that some of the others appear to be in search of a plot, or a place in the audience’s sympathies. Go Away–Go Away covers a pivotal day in the life of Ludmilla (the brilliant Lusia Strus), who hopes Valentin, the man arriving on her doorstep in response to her personal ad, will sweep her away to a sunny house in the Caucasus, allowing escape from her crumbling apartment, troublesome daughter, drunken mother, and senile grandmother. This being the Russia of blighted hopes and shattered dreams, however, naturally Valentin (Kirk Anderson, an Uncle Vanya in the making) provides her with one more difficulty to manage. Ludmilla’s good cheer while enduring the unendurable is as stirring and heartbreaking as the stoicism of any Chekhov heroine. And even where the playwright has fallen short on the characters, the ensemble created by directors Yasen Peyankov and Luda Lopatina (who both translated the piece, with Peter Christensen) turns sketches into portraits. National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-248-0577. Through February 24: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 3 PM. $18-$22.