Category 6: The Proposal

‘The Proposal’ // Category 6 Productions

‘The Proposal’ was a tribute to the most timeless of human qualities – stupidity.

Company 6 Productions’ take on Anton Chekhov’s comedy was an amusing look at conflict and chaos. Director Sass Pinci’s ensured the play was a funny reminder of this sad fact. That as a species we’re not getting any smarter.

The play begins when Ivan visits his neighbour Stepan. He comes to ask Stepan if he can marry his daughter Natalya. Pretty straightforward… or so it seems. For beneath these friendships lies a hidden hatred. Before long they are arguing over who owns what land and who really has the better hunting dog.

‘The Proposal’ is a tricky play to adapt. It’s very short, as the original script is only 13 pages long. But this also allows room to add new material. Company 6 achieved this by adding a modern scene at the end.

Chekhov was one of the great dramatists of his time, but his comedies don’t translate as well. The humour is exaggerated and lacks nuance. The jokes also tend to be specific to Russia’s class system. But the thrust of the story remains true and is as ancient as the Rosetta Stone. People love to fight. We humans are good at many things. But conflict is where we excel- especially when it is pointless. Pinci uses various devices to bring this out in the play and make Chekhov’s work translatable. This love for conflict is not unique to any one group of people from any one time or place. The staging therefore reflects this. The characters have Russian names but speak with Australian accents. This gives the story a sense of universality.

Another theme of the play was the disruption of order. The set design worked as a symbol of this. The stage was set with two red armchairs with blue cushions. These were flanked by an easel and a piano at either end. This symmetry clashed with the unbalanced characters and brought out the absurdity of the situation.

It was also evident that the lighting design was also part of this scheme. While the set was bathed in an amber and violet light, which gave it a refined look, this prettiness was contrasted with each character’s ugly behaviour.

Music added a nice ambience to the play. Anton Dvorak’s humoresques played as audiences entered the theatre. This formed a lighthearted tone for the show. Better still were the two pieces sung by director Pinci. There’s no music in the original play, so these piano numbers were a pleasant change of pace to the fast-paced dialogue.

Isaac Reid and Christine Pearsall were well cast as Ivan and Natalya. As was Tony Rive, who was riveting as Stepan. Rive received the biggest laughs as he played the stern father. Another addition to the original script was the presence of Pinci as a mute piano player. Pinci stayed in character the whole time without speaking a word. This was an interesting choice that made the experience and meant that Pinci also functioned as a mirror to the play’s insanity.

Despite the challenges inherent in staging ‘The Proposal,’ Company 6 Production delivered an amusing show. In this production, the audience has no hero to root for in the story – they’re all very stupid. However, maybe that’s just the point.

‘The Proposal’ performs until Saturday, 20 April 2024 at Gasworks Arts Park. For more information visit their website.

Category 6: The Proposal

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