By Brian Friel
Presented at the Edmonton Fringe Festival
Liana Shannon and John Sproule
Directed by Wayne Paquette
Stage Managed by Michelle Chan
Posters, Photos, and Programs by Martijn Magill
Nominated for 4 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards
Outstanding Fringe Production
Outstanding Director of a Fringe Play (*Winner: Wayne Paquette)
Outstanding Actor in a Fringe Play (*Winner: John Sproule)
Outstanding Actress in a Fringe Play (Liana Shannon)
Edmonton Sun Hot Fringe Picks 2005
Collin Maclean #1 Pick of the Fringe: Afterplay
Edmonton Journal Pick of the Fringe
Edmonton Journal Newcomers to Watch: Wayne Paquette
Vue Weekly`s Best of 2005 Theatre
Paul Matwychuk: #3. Afterplay
THE EDMONTON SUN – Colin MacLean
Gentle, elegiac and haunting, Wayne Paquette’s production of Brian Friel’s Afterplay is one of the best things I have seen at this year’s Fringe.
Friel is Ireland’s most respected playwright and he has often acknowledged his debt to the great Russian writer Chekhov.
For Afterplay, Friel has taken two of Chekhov’s most enduring characters and imagines them meeting 25 years after the original plays. The two are Sonya Serebriakoya of Uncle Vanya and Andrey Prozorov of The Three Sisters. The last time we saw Sonya she had been abandoned by her great love, Dr. Astrov, and she and her uncle were settling sadly down to work on the books of the family farm. Andrey had to give up his dream of playing in a symphony orchestra.
Friel’s play stands up dramatically on its own, but I wonder how much more rich it would be if you are familiar with the originals. The two characters come with such baggage that Friel can coattail on the wonderful richness given them by Chekhov.
As in a Chekhov play, nothing really happens here. In fact, the first half-hour or so has the two sitting in a Moscow tearoom and talking. Ah, but what talk. Friel shares with Chekhov a love of words and his dialogue is spare and focused.
Both characters talk of the lives they have lived since the original play, and it’s like catching up with old friends, but how much is real and how much is fantasy I’ll leave for you to discover.
Friel remains devoted to Chekhov’s restrained storytelling and its underlying sense of humanity. His ending is satisfactory for his own play – and so right for Chekhov. If the Russian master had these two meet 25 years on, this is the ending, I’m sure, he would have written.
Liana Shannon’s Sonya is a country mouse in the big city overcoming her unease with liberal tots of vodka. Spinsterish and brusque, she doesn’t allow Andrey to linger in his lies. Behind the surface is the solid, reliable and heart-broken Sonya from Uncle Vanya. John Sproule gallantly defers to his co-star, but his portrait of a sad failure nearing the end of his life is heartbreaking.
The play ends with a pervasive sense of sadness and loss that left few in the audience unmoved.
5 suns out of 5
THE EDMONTON JOURNAL – Liz Nicholls
It`s with Afterplay, a remarkable play by Brian Friel, a speculation about a brief encounter in a drab `20s Moscow cafe between lonely, strapped Chekhov characters – from different plays.
Twenty years on, Sonya, the much put upon niece of Uncle Vanya, has had to come to Moscow to grapple with bankers about the imminent demise of the family estate. Andrey, brother of the three sisters, is now a ragged violinist, who spins `little fables`about his dead wife, his precocious kids, his life as a musican in the opera pit-orchestra.
Gradually he confesses. And eventually, too, comes a confession from the much more self-possessed Sonya about her unrequited love for Astrov, the environmental activist doctor in Uncle Vanya.
Wayne Paquette, better known here as a stage manager, directs a production of surpassing nuance and emotional precision. Sproule has never been better as the forlorn Andrey, battling despair and a sense of failure with his edifice of fictions. Shannon is heartbreaking as a woman just about, but not quite, inured to `that endless tundra of aloneness`. Fortitude, she says, is what is required in life.
There`s a nearly chilling moment when Andrey criticizes his sisters for living in the antechamber of `perpetual expectation`. The production rushes it a bit, but the words still cut. What damns the two of them is exactly what sustains them, a strangely persistent hope.
4 1/2 Stars
Wayne Paquette is already one of the city`s most sought-after stage managers; if he keeps creating productions as good as this one, he might soon become one of Edmonton`s most sought-after directors as well.
John Sproule plays Andrey Prozorov from The Three Sisters while Liana Shannon plays Sonya Serebriakova from Uncle Vanya and in Brian Friel`s script they meet in a Moscow cafe, both of them 20 years older and still as unhappy as ever. The results are as poignant and delicate as anything in Chekhov, making this the best production of this year`s Fringe.