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He Says: How Many Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscows Does It Take to Get Us Going

He Says: How Many Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscows Does It Take to Get Us Going

How many Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow‘s does it take to get us fully going and engaged? I guess the answer is six. But you might want to ask the brilliantly twisted Halley Feiffer, the whip smart playwright that was also behind another long-winded-titled play,  MCC’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City and the gorgeously funny The Pain of My Belligerence that played last season at Playwrights Horizons. While being somewhat ridiculous in her repetitiveness of the title, she also manages to shine a lightness and humor on the obstinate pathos of the Chekhovian structure and the sisters’ dream. “Obvi” I mean, this is a complete compliment, just to be clear, as the play frolics forward with speed and demented delightfulness and although the creationism involved starts to weigh a bit heavy on the ear, the preciseness and star casting lands so much brighter than the less successful Vanya update, Life Sucks, currently playing at Theatre Row.  Like that remodeling, MCC Theater has procured its own Chekhov to update, bringing forth a wild and wonderfully fun Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, a six-tiered modern retelling of his famous Three Sisters. All in a quick one act wonder that never fails to surprise or entertain.

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
The cast of MCC Theaters MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Feiffer plays the sisters for laughs, most expertly in a rambunctious frenzy of fire-breed fury, while systematically placing it with precision inside a stylistic and solid construct. It’s done with a decisive directorial hand by Trip Cullman (Broadway’s Lobby Hero) letting the millennial shorthand take over and speed the languishing sisters to a surprisingly optimistic end without missing a beat.  Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow… would make it all better, the thought is, but I’m not sure what Chekhov would have to say about this quick witted treatment, but Feiffer gets the gist of these privileged bores with ease, delivering  a snarky and smart 95 minute take on the long winded Chekhov ‘comedy’ with a baked in emotionality that zings in its inertia and brattiness.

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
Matthew Jeffers Rebecca Henderson Tavi Gevinson, Chris Perfetti. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The title is more a poke than a convoluted joke, making me feel as lazy a typist and/or writer as those Prozorova children moored without purpose in a Russian countryside farmhouse, designed with a wise wink by Mark Wendland (ATC’s The Mother), circa 1900 by way of 2019 emoji-speak. Dressed in modern tee shirts and colorful running shoes, courtesy of costume designer Paloma Young’s (MCC’s Alice by Heart) playful wit, the three sisters moan and complain about life and love as they are want to do, while they wait for something to stir them into action, and maybe even lead them back to their aristocratic upbringing in their hometown of Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow… It is there, in that Russian city, the root of their maladaptive belief system, where they fully believe they just might find the happiness that truly must await them.

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
Steven Boyer, Tavi Gevinson. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The oldest sister, the schoolteacher and spinster Olga, dynamically played to perfection by Rebecca Henderson (Signature’s The Wayside Motor Inn) leads the trio forward in delicious unified laughter and brittle bitter asides.  It’s Irina’s birthday, so they must celebrate, but it’s also the anniversary of their father’s death, so there’s that too, hanging over their heads. Tavi Gevinson (Broadway’s The Crucible) plays the young featherweight most beautifully, pulling and pushing aside advances with a bored gesture, particularly from the somewhat gay Baron Tzaenbach, deliciously played by Steven Boyer (Encores’ Assassins). Ramping up a deadly dark and twisted triangle of sorts, the efforts of Solyony, hilariously and complexly well played by Matthew Jeffers (NYTW’s Light Shining…) are also discarded with a petulant grimace of a millennial teenager who thinks she’s all that. Little does she know what will come of that.

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
Ryan Spahn, Chris Perfetti, Rebecca Henderson. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Then there is Masha, the hot one, majestically played to the max by the wonderful Chris Perfetti (Public’s The Low Road). The drag-free performance by a actor in a long skirt excellently shoves aside her husband, Kulygin, the Latin teacher, hilariously portrayed by the Sondheim spewing Ryan Spahn (Primary Stage’s Daniel’s Husband) for the love and passion of the married Lieutenant-colonel Vershinin, handsomely played by the delightfully serious Alfredo Narciso (Public’s Tiny Beautiful Things).  “Careful the things you say…“, as he has a wife and two children – “We know!” – but that doesn’t stop this desperate sister of dreaming of the day she might just run off with her soldier to Moscow Moscow Moscow… Perfetti manages to be funny, natural, dismissing, and heart-breaking all within seconds of each other, making the character as real and solid as any other Masha around.

302.Greg-Hildreth-and-Sas-Goldberg-in-MCC-Theaters-MOSCOW-MOSCOW-MOSCOW-MOSCOW-MOSCOW-MOSCOW-photo-by-Joan-Marcus
Greg Hildreth, Sas Goldberg. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Flailing away but on a different realm is the worshiped intellectual brother, Andrey, dynamically portrayed by Greg Hildreth (Broadway’s Frozen) who is in love with the yoga pant wearing Natasha, played to the hilt by the impressive Sas Goldberg (Broadway/RTC’s Significant Other). Little do they know that as time flies by (quite quickly here on the Feiffer landscape) and that marriage is consummated more than just once, this little dynamo of a character (and actress) would blossom into quite the controlling magnificent monster, even threatening to get rid of the sweet old housekeeper, Anfisa, perfectly portrayed by Ako (Primary Stage’s God Said This) who has been with the family, like forever. Filling out the edges, Ferapont, delightfully played by Gene Jones (Signature’s The Trip to Bountiful) wanders in to get papers signed and show exasperation in their narcissism and privilege, while old Chebutykin, heart-breakingly portrayed by the detailed Ray Anthony Thomas (Broadway’s Jitney) slurs and swings up and down with a fevered dual love for a dead mother and surviving child drunk on perpetual remorse and “just one“.  It’s in these small moments of silly stumblings that the art of the actors really find their weight in gold, working together with such finesse and fun that it raises the piece from good to grand, even as the Russian countryside awkwardly “blows” them down.

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
Steven Boyer, Matthew Jeffers. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Is this too dark?“, “Nothing is too dark for us.” Perfectly presented and expertly timed, this Moscow Moscow… fires off with a hilarious deadly aim. With strong stark lighting by Ben Stanton (Broadway’s JUNK) and a concise sound design by Darron I. West (MCC’s Punk Rock), the dystopian landscape of this Chekhov standard flies by at a furious clip hitting ever quota and stance, “la la la“.  Feiffer balances the hopes, aspirations and dreams of her headstrong characters, while also finding in the heart of their harmonious pathos, the loneliness and desperation of the Three Sisters, where nothing will actually change. Even with their never ending hope that Moscow… will bring something better for them, for no real reason, if only they would do something about it. It’s surprising, after all the jokes and laughter brought forth most beautifully on the charms and backsides of the magnificent actors’ presentation, the piece finds its blood and heartbeat at the core, making their decision to go even more touching and heartfelt.  Who knew that was gonna happen?!?

You’re staying, shut up!

MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby HALLEY FEIFFER directed by TRIP CULLMAN
Chris Perfetti in MCC Theaters MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW. Photo by Joan Marcus.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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