If you’ve seen The Seagull at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (and CityBeat theater reviewer Tom McElfresh recommends that you do), then you should plan a return visit for The Nina Variations, playwright Steven Dietz’s delightful take on the final scene of Chekhov’s play. CSC offers another way to see the 1896 classic, via Dietz’s 1996 script, presented by the Bruce E. Coyle Intern Company from Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Those eight actors, who are mostly doing touring productions to schools and taking on small, non-speaking roles in Playhouse shows, get the chance to be front and center with 43 different scenes that imagine various ways the final conversation — or confrontation — between the tragically idealistic playwright Konstantin and Nina, the errant, nave actress he loves. (The four men switch off as Konstantin, the four women as Nina.)
Dietz’s notes suggest that “the stage is a place where second chances are granted,” and here it’s more than 40 such chances with literate, provocative and witty re-imaginings. If you don’t like the one you’re watching, sit tight: The scenes are ticked off by an LED with glowing red numbers, and none lasts more than about two minutes. (The entire piece takes about 90 minutes, without intermission.)
Since this is an intern production, the Playhouse asks that Nina Variations not be critiqued, so this is not a review. But I will say you won’t regret seeing these actors perform a script that demands that they be serious and comic, thoughtful and silly. And without giving anything away, I’ll simply mention that the piece ends with a wholly unexpected routine that further demonstrates the cast’s performing talents.
I’m sure The Nina Variations can be appreciated in and of itself — an early scene offers a quickly humorous summary of the script. But you’ll appreciate it all the more if you see the real thing first. Performances are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7:30 through Feb. 4. Tickets: 513-381-2273. More info from Cincinnati Shakespeare Company here.