Laugh-out-loud Chekhov – Two for the Price of One

Backpocket Productions and Scrawny Cat Theatre Company present The Bear and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov, Studio 180, 23 and 24 February 2012

On arrival at this intriguing venue in Waterloo, guests were given a ticket either with or without a white square.  This determined the order in which one experienced the plays, as both were performed twice in the evening, with the audience switching at the interval.  I started with The Bear, which I had not seen or read before.  It turned out to be a very entertaining piece of theatre with the laughs coming thick and fast.  The antagonism and admiration between Popova and Smirnoff was very well played, but for me the most interesting relationship was that between Popova and Luka, which was captivating from the outset.  Rae Brogan (Popova) ran the gamut of emotions, and was particularly effective (and amusing) as the grieving widow at the start of the play.  The irrepressible Avena Mansergh-Wallace (Luka) gave a remarkably physical comedic performance, and I especially liked her despair at the prospective duel.  Noah James (Smirnov) was a suitably angry and commanding Bear.  Well directed by Marisa Freyer, the piece was balanced and well-constructed, and ended on a high note.

After the interval, I moved upstairs for The Proposal, a play with which I am familiar.  I was eager to see the company’s take on this classic comedy.  It was hilarious.  Ryan Wichert (Lomov) was already in position, in dress shirt and tails, nervously waiting to pop the question.  Ryan used his physicality to great effect throughout the show to convey both anxiety and irritation, captivating the audience with voice, twitches and tics, and clever use of a small metal snuff box.  Marie Rabe was humorous and engaging as the lively Natalya, who wants to get married but can’t resist a good argument.  The character written as Stephan, Natalya’s father, was changed to Stephania, her mother, a directorial decision of which I highly approved.  Silvana Maimone proved herself a strong, versatile actor in this role transforming from stately to short-fused with ease.  All three of the actors gave engrossing performances, ably directed by Charlotte Ive, and my only complaint is that it seemed to be over too quickly!

This run of The Proposal and The Bear has finished, but for more information about the companies visit

Mary Tynan

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