The Professional and Eve of the Trial, TinFish Theatre. The company’s “second annual Serbian heritage production,” featuring two one-acts, kicks off with an adaptation of Chekhov’s short story “Eve of the Trial” by Samm-Art Williams. Though perhaps more appropriate for, say, a Russian heritage celebration, it provides an hour of light, crowd-pleasing entertainment. Williams has taken some liberties by setting Chekhov’s story of a wayward Russian immigrant in early-20th-century Louisiana, but the biggest shift is the playwright’s contempt for these pitiful characters. The script’s ironic distance hampers genuine human interaction, and the production traffics heavily in slack-jawed yokel stereotypes.
Director Nate White’s razor-sharp production of Dusan Kovacevic’s The Professional is much more in line with the company’s stated mission: spotlighting little-known European writers. Like last year’s production of Kovacevic’s A Roaring Tragedy, this show reveals the playwright to be a masterful manipulator of language. It’s worth noting that The Professional has been playing in Belgrade for the better part of a decade, where this kind of politically motivated work might resonate more deeply than it does here. But Dragan Torbica’s expressive performance as a beleaguered writer confronted with a suitcase full of his own failures would be potent in any venue, making Kovacevic’s fears of political and social lawlessness seem pressing indeed.