We gave it an A-
Who would have thought that a 19th century Russian comedy of manners would feel so contemporary? If you removed the arranged-marriage plot and threw in a few Tinder mishaps, A Month in the Country—Classic Stage Company’s current revival of the Ivan Turgenev classic about misdirected affections on a lavish country estate—could easily take place today. Credit for such a triumph is partly due to a witty translation by John Christopher Jones, whose dialogue zings whenever bored trophy wife Natalya (Taylor Schilling) gossips with her loyal but frustrated admirer Rakitin (Peter Dinkage); for instance, when asked for his opinion of a local man, Rakitin replies, “He’s fat, he’s stupid, and he’s tedious, but I have nothing bad to say about him.” It’s an enormous credit to the talents of Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Dinklage (Game of Thrones), two award-bait actors bringing small-screen nuance to the piece’s turn-it-up-a-notch theatricality.
Directed by his stage-savvy wife Erica Schmidt (Humor Abuse), Dinklage lends a quiet intensity to the role, and Schilling is absolutely captivating as Natalya, a woman who’s a bit of an actress herself. The latter is married to a wealthy landowner (ER‘s Anthony Edwards, returning to the NYC stage after a long hiatus), secretly flirts with Rakitin, whom she doesn’t really love, and actively pursues Aleksei (Mike Faist), a handsome young tutor who dotes on the pretty 17-year-old girl (Megan West) for whom Natalya serves as guardian. Whether controlling Rakitin with a flirtatious smile or relenting to an attack of self-pity, the character’s a drama queen who masks all the drama, manipulating men with exquisite subtlety. As a just-past-her-prime beauty who’s always worried that some pretty young thing will upstage her, Natalya’s also the perfect cautionary-tale character for a Hollywood star to take on. It’s scary to think that-even in the pre-media era of Turgenev-29 was, well…old. A-