15 August 2002 | baker-9
Turn Down The Volume on Your TV
This taped version of the Actor's Studio Broadway production of Chekhov's play is a valuable record of an interesting, though variable performance. However, most of the actors project their voices as if they were still in the theater, so you'll need a good remote handy while watching.
This film features most of the original Broadway cast, with the exception of Sandy Dennis as Irina (originally played by Shirley Knight) and Shelley Winters as Natasha (originally played by Barbara Baxley). As both Knight and Baxley got the least good notices for their performances on stage, it's probably no surprise they aren't here.
Given the Actors Studio penchant for exposing one's inner workings over period accuracy, some of the actors seem too contemporary in their manner to be 100% believable as turn-of-the-century middle-class Russians. McCarthy, Loggia, Winters (who's too old for Natasha anyway, and gives her standard shrew performance) and Dennis (whose signature vocal and physical mannerisms are too much in evidence) are particularly lacking in this regard.
Tamara Daykarhanova, who worked at the Moscow Arts Theater, is certainly the most authentically Russian of the cast as the old servant Anfisa.
Kim Stanley is best of the rest of the cast - her Masha is captivating, if a tad too unsympathetic. Geraldine Page is a good Olga, and Gerald Hiken is a fine Andrei, down to a very convincing folk dancer. I also liked James Olson's Baron - when he wasn't speaking too loudly - and Luther Adler's Doctor.
As an overall performance, I do prefer Olivier's version, but this one will be interesting for theater buffs to get an alternative take on the play, and for the good pieces of acting. Certainly Kim Stanley made so few films that it's worth checking out anything she did.