On the High Road
Sur la grande route
by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Laura Lassy Townsend
In French with English Titles
L'Atelier Theatre NY
With Nadège Beillevert, Léa Caen, Fiona Dalmier, Patricia Georget, Geneviève Lavaud, Benjamin Nadal, Nicolas Saint-Gregoire, Gladys Venturelli.
Stage Manager: Alexandra Gontard
Set & Costume Design: Nicolas Saint Grégoire
Light Design: Andrew Carr
Sound Design: Jerome Rouquette
Russia, 1884. Pilgrims, peasants, craftsmen, bandits and other passers-by find shelter from an icy storm in Tikhone’s cabaret. In this congregation of unfortunates, every character has their own story, shaded with misery and filled with hope.
A note on the play
The very existence of On The High Road (1884), probably the earliest of its author’s plays, will be unsuspected by French & English theatergoers alike. During Chekhov's lifetime, the play was censored. The treatment of the peasant condition was deemed “depressing and dirty” by the authorities. It became a family legend while he was alive, and after his death, a family mystery. A copy was finally discovered in 2004 in the Censor's office. In it, we see, in an embryonic form, the whole later method of his plays – the deliberate contrast between two strong characters (Bortsov and Mérik), the careful individualization of each person in a fairly large group by way ofan introduction to the main theme, the concealment of the catastrophe and the distinctive Chekhovian group-atmosphere. For the rest, this piece differs from his later plays in its mixed genre, alternating between realism and melodrama – constituting a bridge between the short stories and the dramatic plays – as well as in its presentation, not of Chekhov's favorite middle-classes, but of the moujiks, the Russian working class, nourishing, in a particularly stuffy atmosphere, an intense mysticism and an equally intense thirst for vodka.