Off Broadway Review: Peter Dinklage, Taylor Schilling in ‘A Month in the Country’

Taylor Schilling, Peter Dinklage, Mike Faist, Megan West.

Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) are the latest high-profile TV thesps to schlep down to the East Village to appear in one of Classic Stage Company’s cozy productions of classic plays. In a move that’s fairly radical for this company, the current star vehicle isn’t Chekhov, the house favorite, or even Shakespeare, but “A Month In the Country,” Turgenev’s delicious 1872 comedy of (genteel Russian) manners. Although John Christopher Jones’s translation projects the casual air of a modern sensibility, Turgenev’s ruminations on the joys and miseries of being in love have a timeless appeal.

It’s no wonder that small-screen thesps enjoy working in the intimate quarters of CSC’s 199-seat house. The three-sided seating puts the audience practically at eye level with the performers, so every facial expression can be seen and every well-modulated tone of voice can be heard. No theatrics are called for, since it’s almost like playing to a camera.

It is also the policy of the house, which has been under the canny artistic management of a.d. Brian Kulick for a dozen years, to keep the scenery from taking over the stage. (Costumes, however, and occasionally props, are allowed to be as elaborate as the budget will bear.) Mark Wendland keeps the faith here with a simple but stunning indoor/outdoor setting (suggested by a low dividing wall) of a gracious country estate. While the furnishings are minimal, the forest of birch trees painted on the back wall conveys a sense of serene affluence and well-being.

That serenity is shattered when love and all its messy complications invade the home where the lovely, volatile Natalya (Schilling) lives with her much older husband, Arkady Islaev (Anthony Edwards), their 10-year-old son, Kolya (Ian Etheridge), and 17-year-old ward, Vera (Megan West, very girlish). It seems that both Natalya and Vera have fallen in love with Aleksey (Mike Faist, very boyish), the handsome young man hired to tutor Kolya — and only Turgenev’s refined sense of high comedy can keep the situation from turning into high tragedy.

Believing “too much passion” to be a character flaw, Natalya resists her own passionate yearnings for the (unappealingly bland) young tutor, but heartlessly confides her forbidden feelings to her best friend, Rakitin (Dinklage), who is hopelessly in love with her. Although Natalya’s nuanced emotions register on Schilling’s expressive features like flashes of white-heat lighting, Rakitin’s misery imprints itself like an indelible tattoo on Dinklage’s face. Is it cruelty or the insensitivity of narcissism that makes her so oblivious to his pain?

Turgenev must have been a little in love with his capricious heroine, given the almost obsessive attention he pays to her erratic but fascinating psychology. For poor Rakitin, he has nothing but compassion. Helmer Erica Schmidt, who previously directed Dinklage, her husband, in a CSC table reading of “Uncle Vanya,” takes an intimate approach to her two leads, setting up their one-on-one scenes like closeups.  While this tactic extracts an extremely soulful performance from Dinklage, whose huge, suffering eyes follow Natalya’s every move, and an extremely animated one from the vivacious Schilling, it tends to undercut the play’s ensemble framework.

Seasoned players like Edwards (as Natalya’s deaf-dumb-blind-and-stupid husband, Arkady), Elizabeth Franz (Arkady’s mother) and Annabella Sciorra (her companion) would disappear entirely upstage, were it not for Tom Broecker’s sumptuous costumes. Thomas Jay Ryan, however, does manage to make his voice heard as Shpigelsky, the cynical doctor who finds the family dynamics absurdly amusing.

It’s left to audiences (of Turgenev’s day, as well as our own) to look askance at the foibles of this classbound society, laugh at their obtuseness, and feel terribly, inexplicably sad for them.

Off Broadway Review: Peter Dinklage, Taylor Schilling in 'A Month in the Country'

Classic Stage Company; 199 seats; $80 top. Opened Jan. 29, 2015. Reviewed Jan. 22. Running time: TWO HOURS, 5 MIN.

Production: A Classic Stage Company production of a play in two acts by Ivan Turgenev, in a translation by John Christopher Jones.

Creative: Directed by Erica Schmidt. Sets, Mark Wendland; costumes, Tom Broecker; lighting, Jeff Croiter; sound, Bart Fasbender; production stage manager, Jillian M. Oliver.

Cast: Taylor Schilling, Peter Dinklage, Mike Faist, Megan West.

More Legit

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]


    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

  • Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac

    Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac to Star in Anton Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' Adaptation

    Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac are taking on an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” for New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan. The company announced on Tuesday that they will feature two final performances to round out the 2019 to 2020 season, including the Chekhov play. “Three Sisters” will be directed by Tony award-winning Sam [...]

  • montreal just for laughs Comedy Festival

    Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival Is the 'Coachella of Comedy'

    Every summer, Montreal becomes the epicenter of the comedy world as the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival takes over the Canadian city. Now in its 37th year, the mindboggling scale of the festival is there in the numbers: more than 1,600 artists from across the globe (speaking English, French and other languages) performing 250 shows [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content