Russian romantic comedy offers new twist in high school production

Photo courtesy Kim Elzinga

Special to The PREVIEW
The Pagosa Springs High School Drama Club’s production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Marriage Proposal” Feb. 10, 16 and 17 takes the stage like audience members have never seen before.
“Often we try to get as many kids involved as we can and we aim for larger, more visually oriented productions,” said Sean Downing, director and drama coach for the high school. “Every few years, though, I try to get a classic piece on stage, just for the lessons young actors can learn from the masters.”
This year’s classic piece is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s romantic comedy “The Marriage Proposal,” a one-act play filled with the irony and satire of love.
“The basic plot line is simple, as are all Chekhov’s plays and those simple plot lines, simple sets, simple stories, really gave Chekhov the opportunity to explore the hilarious complexities of falling in love — in any culture, at any time,” Downing explained.
The one act features only three roles, filled by Adrian Roque (senior), Skylar King (sophomore) and Roland Sanchez (senior).
“Staging only three students in a production like this is risky,” Downing said, “because often the only people who come see the play are the kids’ parents and that gives me about six people in the audience. But I really wanted to give a few kids the opportunity to get into the roles, push themselves to let the process, not the product, be the point of the play.”
Downing continued, “These three have really explored the process of finding character (which is harder than it looks), dealing with comedy based on reality (which is harder than it looks) and balancing their crazy lives while pursuing three demanding roles (which is harder than it looks). They have put together a play that balances satire with the serious and, in many places in the performance, they surprise me with some new discovery every night.”
Chekhov wrote “The Marriage Proposal” in 1888 and it was first performed around 1890. The original play is intended to take place in a parlor or sitting room in an aristocratic Russia.
“But, the beauty of any classical piece,” Downing suggested, “is that you can perform it in any cultural or economic setting. So we set it in contemporary culture. What’s amazing is how little the human race changes across time and across cultures.”
Performances will take place in the Terry Alley Auditorium at the high school on Saturday, Feb. 10 (a change from last week’s advertised opening night), and Feb. 16 and Feb. 17.
“All three nights handily scheduled around Valentine’s Day, for those of you looking for the perfect date night,” Downing added.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; curtain is at 7 p.m. Prices are $5 for students and $8 for the public.

This story was posted on February 8, 2018.