I Take Your Hand in Mine… is a drama, based on the letters exchanged between the Russian literary giant Anton Chekhov and his wife, the important actress, Olga Knipper. In a script created by Carol Rocamora, and directed by Dmitry Zhukovsky, we view the intimacy of their marriage. We also glimpse moments of when and how some of the greatest drama ever created came into being.
Anton Chekhov was already famous when he met Olga Knipper. Though still young, he had only eight more years to live, and was to die at age 44, in 1904. Consumption would finish him, but his life was far from tragic. The play is inspirational because Chekhov’s decline was also his most productive. His love of Olga and his own insight into human life triggered a great volley of masterworks. In those closing years, he created The Sea Gull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard. Any good writer is humbled by Chekhov’s subtlety, how he uses the ordinary door to open onto a panoramic view of human nature.
I Take Your Hand in Mine… is wonderfully cast with Richard Sheridan Willis as Chekhov and Rena Polley as Olga Knipper. Willis gives us the look of a man who sees more than he tells, a wise observer of people, and how they use words to hide their true feelings, even from themselves. Chekhov was of course a practicing doctor, and Willis plays him as a man who is both warm, and yet maintains a certain clinical detachment. Willis also portrays a shy man, who continues to hide his affair with Olga until she finally gives him an ultimatum. Then and only then does he offer to tie the knot.
I should confess I have a special fondness for Rena Polley, especially when we see her rehearse a scene from Three Sisters. In the scene, she plays Masha, a woman who is in love with a married man she cannot have, and she does so with a lightness that tears your heart out watching her. Whether you know anything of Chekhov’s life or his works, I believe you’d still enjoy watching these two fine actors communicate this marriage, through the couple’s own words. I Take Your Hand in Mine… is a play that has a strange resonance to it, of sadness and a larger joy. It’s a perfect “date drama”. Like fine wine, it’s a drama to savour.
This play is running now at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. April 6-23, 2017.
Tuesday – Saturday, 8:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday matinee, 2:30 pm
You can order tickets at:
30 Bridgman Avenue
The Chekhov Collective in association with Theatrus
Produced by Yulia Rubina and Rena Polley