In the basement of the Yale Cabaret building sits a table. This table — oval in shape, old and chipped, crafted of mahogany and completely overwhelming the room that it occupies — represents the spirit of invitation characteristic of “The Wedding Reception.” Adapted by director Alex Mihail from the 1889 play by Anton Chekhov, the play follows the events and interactions that take place during the celebration of the matrimony between Dashenka (Martyna Majok) and Epaminodas Maximovich Aplombov (Brian Lewis DRA ’12).
The play is short — only one act on paper and running about an hour in performance — but successfully invites and entertains the audience through its humorous representations of real-life relationships.
“The Wedding Reception” attempts to showcase a family in the midst of the wedding night of their youngest daughter. The play opens with patriarch Natasya Timofeyevna (Emily Reilly DRA ’13) complaining about the extravagance of her daughter’s wedding and the unexpected identity of a certain general in attendence. Bridegroom Andrey Niunin (Brad Tuggle) had hoped to have a military officer at his wedding ceremony, but the company soon discovers that the “general” is only a retired member of the police force, Fyodor Yakovlyovich Revunov-Karaulov (Lucas Dixon DRA ’12). This mishap is only one of the many social missteps that not only showcases the importance of class in this subset of Eastern European society, but also demonstrates the disappointment that carries the play to its end.
“The Wedding Reception” creates a realistic and enjoyable vignette through the frank portrayal of its characters. Many of the individuals — like Andrey Niunin, the overzealous bachelor, or Natasya Timofetevna, the overbearing mother, are characters representative of our own time. Sarah Sokolovic’s DRA ’11 depiction of Anna Martunovna Zmeyukhina stood out in particular. Sokolovic’s routines — from her anachronistic performance of Journey’s “Open Arms” to her onstage flirting with a telegraph operator are enhanced by her theatrical personality and onstage presence. She even gets the best lines. During a conversation with Ivan Yatz (Babak Gharaei-Tafti DRA ’11), she utters, “Fan me, fan me, or I feel that I shall have a heart attack in a minute. Tell me, please, why do I feel so suffocated?” Her statement manages to both reflect the political attitude of Chekhov’s day and unknowingly foreshadow the coming Soviet Union.
“The Wedding Reception” ultimately succeeds in capturing the essence of its namesake. It represents an important moment in time — one in which a woman attempts to find herself, when a family attempts to assert its standing and when a generation of people attempt to discover who they are in the face of the Soviet Union. Mihail manages to capture these struggles in the midst of a typically emotional time in a family’s life.
The situational irony in “The Wedding Reception” is what makes Chekhov’s play so relevant even today. Many of the problems that these characters deal with, like Dashenka Timofeyevna’s struggle to define herself independent of her parent’s identity, are not unlike typical students’ attempts to discover who they are during the collegiate years. These instances are conveyed via the interactive metaphor of the dinner table in which we have insight into what has formed these characters. After all, aren’t the best stories shared over dinner?