At its best, Three Days in the Country, is a blithe, comical update, by Patrick Marber, of Ivan Turgenev’s classic A Month in the Country, and a potent reminder of how people seem to never exhaust themselves of the pain of unrequited love and passion…at every age.
The setting is a country estate where Natalya, a headstrong woman, is married to Arkady, a rich landowner. Bored with life, she welcomes the attentions of Rakitin, Arkady’s best friend, as her long-devoted admirer.
The arrival of a handsome, exciting and somewhat rough-mannered student Belyaev, along with his mentor Schaaf, her depressed young son Kolya’s German tutor, has Natalya suddenly falling desperately and ardently in love for the first time. But so does her ward Vera, who perceives Belyaev’s attention as romantic. Of course, Belyaev is in love with neither of the two and carrying on a secret affair with house servant Katya who has suddenly abandoned her boring nuptials with Matvey (confused about why) for the empowering, sexual awakening. He plays all his emotions close to the vest (and everyone it seems) in order to stay in the house. It is the first time he’s ever experienced a real home before.
And there’s more – of course! The neighboring, very much older landowner Bolshintsov, has come courting Vera. He wants a young bride. Family doctor Shpigelsky, has decided to expose all his qualities to the very independent spinster Lizaveta, in order to bridge a contract of financial comfort for himself. Rakitin is hell-bent on ousting the young tutor, Arkady’s mother Anna is pretending not to see any of it until she can do so no longer, Kolya is finally coming out of his shell, Schaaf is in fear of losing his position and Arkady is willing to pretty much turn a blind eye to the whole orchestration.
By modern standards it is a hilarious ‘hot mess’ , with everyone running around in circles trying to establish affection, wondering about rejection, resenting the competition and worrying about reciprocation in all forms.
These people are tying themselves in knots over desire. On the surface it is about social morays, morality on the skids, false modesties, long-abandoned loyalties and questionable friendships. But really, it comes down to how we lie to ourselves when the truth is right in front our faces. How we choose not to see it, to ignore it and stay in a fantasy of what we want instead, of what is.
With its oddball charms, although not without a slight lack of chemistry or awkwardness within the Blunderers casting, the play exudes plenty of sass and spirit. There are as many truths embedded in the story as there are delights and of course, as many blunders. Instance upon instance in this merry-go-round, is someone in love with someone else who is in love with someone else or even the same person.
Three Days in the Country is entertaining, witty and occasionally sexy.
Special kudos to Leo Marks who is all verbal spitfire and angry aggressiveness at his lover’s dismissal and his opponent’s win. Also, Armin Shimerman for one of the most logical yet grossly and un-romantically designed (and delivered) marriage proposals any woman could ever hope to never receive, and Lilly Knight for a priceless fending off of the joyless prospect in all its constipation.
The Blunderers partner cast:
Natalya – Nike Doukas
Rakitin – Leo Marks
Arkady – Antonio Jaramillo
Vera – Jeanne Syquia
Belyaev – Peter Mendosa
Shipigelsky – Armin Shimerman
Lizaveta – Lily Knight
Bolshintsov – Gregory Itzin
Schaaf – Marcel Tubert
Anna – Lorna Raver
Kolya – Elijah Justice
Matvey – Jay Lee
Katya – Lila Dupree
Photo (above) by Geoffrey Wade Photography: Peter Mendoza and Nike Doukas