THE PROPOSAL/THE RING
Created by Anton Chekhov and Laurie Fyffe
Produced by Plan B (Ottawa)
50m | G | Comedy
Since word-of-mouth is the best advertising, The Proposal/The Ring should have very good advertising indeed. The opening night audience laughed heartily at Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal and they did the same for the premiere of Laurie Fyffe’s sequel, The Ring.
Producers William Beddoe and Andrew Alexander wanted to know what happens after The Proposal so they approached local playwright Laurie Fyffe to write a sequel. The two plays are performed back-to-back.
In Chekhov’s three-hander, a young wealthy landowner, Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov (Kurt Shantz), has decided he must marry. He believes his neighbour’s daughter, Natalya Stepanovna Chubukova (Sarah Marks) will be a suitable help-mate. He asks her father, Stepan (Jeff Lefebvre), for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Stepan is overjoyed to see his daughter in such a profitable union. What could possibly go wrong?
In a word, everything. Ivan is so tongue-tied that he fails to blurt out his rehearsed proposal. Instead Ivan and Natalya get into a hot argument about a disputed parcel of land claimed by both their families. Stepan’s re-entry only adds fuel to the flames.
Shantz as Ivan provides a master class in eliciting laughter without saying a word. His grimaces and failures to communicate vex short-fused Natalya, while sending giggles through the audience. When Chekhov does give Ivan speaking lines, Ivan’s words stoke Natalya’s flaming temper. Where Shantz’s Ivan is either incoherent or rude, Marks’ Natalya is outspoken, quick-witted, self-assured, and sharp-tongued. The two are flame and fuel. Lefebvre’s Stepan sets the tone for this spirited farce, first in his interactions with Ivan and then with Natalya. Under Beddoe’s direction, this trio revels in high farce, much to the delight of the audience.
Fyffe’s play continues Chekhov’s by sending Ivan and Natalya to local priest Father Gruzinsky (Lefebvre) for marital instruction. The couple have a new set of disagreements, including the titular wedding ring. Fyffe doesn’t attempt a Chekhovian homage, but rather a more modern take on this distempered couple. The sparks fly just as high, much to the audience’s enjoyment.
These two delightful plays for the price of one are a real Fringe bargain. If each opening night audience member tells 10 friends, then Plan B Productions should do well at the box office.
THE PROPOSAL/THE RING by Anton Chekhov is playing at LabO (60 Waller Street) until June 26, 2022. Tickets cost $12 online (plus a $2 processing fee) and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the schedule and box office info. Read more reviews at https://apt613.ca/category/festival/fringe/.