ISLAMABAD: The complexities and absurdities of human nature were portrayed in two comedies performed back to back by the Theatre Wallay troupe on Saturday night.

Both one-act plays were adaptations of the works of short story writer Anton Chekhov, specifically The Proposal and The Bear.

The performances were directed by Theatre Wallay’s Fizza Hasan, who founded the non-commercial group of artists over 10 years ago.

Ms Hasan said Chekhov has always been a personal favourite.

“No other writer explores the depths of contradictions in human nature better than the Russian playwright,” she said.

The Proposal is about Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov, long-time neighbour of Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov, who comes to propose to Chubukov’s 25 year old daughter Natalia.

After he has asked and received permission to marry Natalia, she is invited into the room where he attempts to propose to her.

While trying to explain his reason for being there, Lomov gets into an argument with Natalia over a disputed piece of land, which gives him palpitations and numbness in his left leg.

After Chubukov notices the argument, he joins in and sends Lomov away, but when Natalia learns the purpose of Lomov’s visit she begs her father to bring him back.

When he returns, they once again begin arguing, and Lomov collapses from exhaustion, leading the father and daughter to believe he is dead.

When he regains consciousness, Chubukov forces Natalia to accept the proposal, and immediately after they are engages they once again begin arguing.

The second performance, The Bear, begins with Smirnov intruding into the life of Popova while she mourns her husband’s death.

Smirnov insists on immediate repayment of a sum of money Popova’s husband had borrowed, and loses his patience when she asks him to return in two days.

Both flare up, with Popova calling Smirnov a bear because of his ill manners and Smirnov challenging her to a duel, which, to his surprise, she accepts and after which he falls in love with her.

The set for the performance was simple, with a sofa, a rug, a table and some pottery. Most of the six actors were young teachers.

Nida Mahmud, who played Popova, loved the character because of her contradictions.

“I like her because she is confused, idealistic and naive. She wants closure but is shut up in her house.”

“That’s the thing about Chekhov – rather than the plot, his plays are more about human characters and he puts them in a situation and lets them interact. That’s where the absurdity of human nature is revealed,” Ammar Khalid, who played Smirnov, added.

Ms Mahmud and Shafaq Malik gave deeply touching performances, and Anza Manto’s likability added humour to the performances.

Mr Khalid and Haseeb Ali Chisti were also comfortable on stage and Mr Chishti brought out the nuances of his character, while Imran Iftikhar’s performance felt spontaneous. The performances were held at Awan-i-Quaid in F-9 Park.

One of the audience members, Javed Nazir, said: “I’m not much of a theatregoer, but it seemed like the organisers had limited resources and still did an amazing job.”

His friend, Tanvir Mahmud, called the play excellent.

Maliha Anjum, also in the audience, said she enjoyed the performance and some of the new faces on stage.

Published in Dawn November 21st, 2016

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