Marriage, Tinfish Productions, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Miss Agafya is 27 years old, and this may be her last chance for a husband–but what suitors Fiokla the matchmaker brings her! An old man who wants a bride only for her money, a foppish poseur who wants her only for her status, a preening officer who wants her for a retirement award, and a timid civil servant, Podkoliosin, who’s been dragged to the matchmaker by his best buddy, Kochkariev, Fiokla’s disgruntled former client who’s doggedly seeking company in his marital misery and revenge on the person responsible for his sorry state.
The fixed social structure reflected in the satirical comedies of 19th-century Russia coupled with too-literal translations into English often render such works all but unintelligible to modern American audiences. And unfortunately this is true of the Tinfish Productions staging of Nikolai Gogol’s Marriage. Director Dejan Avramovich makes no discernible attempt to tailor the script to contemporary sensibilities, and his cast seems likewise oblivious to characterization and textual interpretation and the crucial role they play in understanding the work’s humor. Granted, Perry Brown plays the obsessed Kochkariev at a nicely manic tempo, and David Shapiro and Christopher Jacobs lend a comic quirk or two to Podkoliosin and his weary servant. But most of the play seems nothing more than an assemblage of nebulous attitudes, offering little beyond what could be found in a secondary-school classroom. –Mary Shen Barnidge