Review: In 'Anton's Shorts' at APT, Chekhov characters are larger than life

Posted August 14, 2023


Lindsay Christians, The Cap Times

“I’m not much of a writer,” Anton Chekhov says with a shrug at the top of “Anton’s Shorts,” a night of comic plays running through Oct. 6 at American Players Theatre.

“Or so everybody tells me, constantly. ‘Don’t quit your day job. … Give up the incessant scribbling, what’s the point?’”

Did the author of “The Cherry Orchard” and “Uncle Vanya” have imposter syndrome? Ah, Russian literary greats, they’re just like us.

Audiences in the Hill Theatre in Spring Green first saw the capital-C Characters in these sketches in 1985, also the first time the classical repertory company stepped outside Shakespeare’s canon.

APT revived the shorts online at the start of what would have been its 2020 summer season. It was funny and odd and a little sad to see Chekhov’s Russian widows and neurotic lecturers boxed by Zoom screens.

Three years later, Jake Penner (“Heathers” at University Theatre) makes his directorial debut up the Hill with “Anton’s Shorts,” now expanded, “freely adapted” and re-framed by playwright Aaron Posner (“Stupid F---ing Bird,” “Life Sucks”).

Posner brings in as a theatrical tour guide Chekhov himself, both 28 and “dead for 119 years,” played by Nate Burger with puppyish enthusiasm. Earnest and curious, Chekhov loves the theater. He’s so tickled by these characters he wrote, he joins the audience to watch several of the plays from an aisle seat.

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