Ian McKellen and Kathryn Walker, curtain call at the Ahmanson, Los Angeles pre-Brodway run
About Michael Frayn's Adaptation
The body of Chekov's work is humorous. It's as if Jules Feiffer wrote a play. You expect a dark undercurrent, but you also expect — rightly — to laugh. Every scene in our play is in the Chekov. What Michael Frayn has done is cut a great deal of the moralising and philosophising. There are long, long speeches from Platonov and others on the nature of society and the world, much as there are in the first act of Three Sisters. Frayn stresses the comedy because he feels that that is the maturer side of the play. The rest is a little indigestible and betrays Chekov's inexperience.
It doesn't surprise me now that there are so many laughs in this play. All that Frayn's done is elegantly phrase them so they're more likely to get a reaction. While we were rehearsing in London I could see it was a very entertaining play. I could see parts of it were meant to be funny, but I was absolutely unable to get ahold of the character, and I didn't look in the direction of comedy. It was only when we met an audience for the first time that I realized that all the gaps that I'd felt in the character had to be filled with laughter. The comedy's very assured. There's no doubt in Frayn's translation exactly what the intentions are.