nytheatre.com review by Sean Michael O'Donnell
August 22, 2007
Chekhov Jazz is not typical theatre fare. A live music event, Chekhov Jazz features music inspired by the writings of famed Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. All of Chekhov's greatest hits—from The Seagull to The Cherry Orchard to Three Sisters—receive a jazz makeover courtesy of the Paris-based Rebecca M. Quintet. Creator Rebecca M. brings together 13 of Chekhov's most famous heroines, giving them a jazz vocal narrative in which to tell their stories of love, anger, hope, and sadness.
The "plot" is tenuously held together by a series of awkward vignettes, the conceit being that Rebecca M. is portraying the character of Sasha from Chekhov's Ivanov. Sasha has brought from Paris to New York all of Chekhov's most tragic heroines in the hopes of mending their hearts through song. In the end the songs are just synopses of each woman's respective play. The lyrics are silly and frustratingly repetitive with only (Three Sisters) Olga's song about the disappointment of life having any real impact. And while Rebecca M. is a likable performer, her vocals come across as forced. Ultimately her singing takes a backseat to her storytelling.
Much of the script is trite and wholly unnecessary, and Chloe Beasse's indulgent direction does little to advance the musical numbers. Each song is framed by unfortunate repartee followed by an extended scene where the new character is introduced with Rebecca M. as Sasha becoming the next chanteuse through the addition of a costume piece or prop. Several scenes go on in excess of ten minutes, distracting from the excellent jazz stylings of the musicians—Julien Lallier on piano, Anne Paceo on drums, Simon Tailleu on bass, and Quentin Ghomari on trumpet. They are outstanding, their passion making for the best part of this intriguing but misguided venture.