In my last year of undergraduate studies, I was introduced to Anton Chekhov when I performed in Wendy Wasserstein’s one-act play The Man in a Case and Michael Frayn’s The Alien Corn: adaptations of two of the many short stories by the prolific Russian writer.
In the following years I continued coming back to his work as actor, director, and playwright in of a revival at my college of that first production, a mounting of Frayn’s The Sneeze and Other Plays at the Warehouse Theatre one summer, Three Sisters in graduate school, a new translation/adaptation of Uncle Vanya with my friend Moti Margolin who also played the title role at The Space in NYC, summer productions with then-current students of my college, and several productions with high school students when I taught in Sydney.
His work is just really good.
After a period of some familiarity, I began to adapt his short stories on my own. Chekhov wrote hundreds of them, and not all have been translated. But from what I was able to find, I was always looking for material to adapt for the stage.
Here is one of the first I adapted.
(Note: If anyone wishes to use any of the scripts posted here for performance, please do! Just drop me a line to let me know they actually getting some use, and I’d appreciate being acknowledged in some way if the production is more substantial than scene-study work.)
How I Came to be Lawfully Wed
a one-act play adapted by John Knauss
from a short story by Anton Chekhov
IVAN: a young man
ZOE: a young woman
LAPKIN: Ivan’s father
NADIA: Ivan’s mother
STEPKA: a servant
A country garden at dusk. The remains of a light dinner are on an outdoor table. IVAN and ZOE sit at opposite ends of the table silently without making eye contact. NADIA and LAPKIN stand off to one side, murmuring to one another in a hushed argument.
LAPKIN: (turning; to IVAN and ZOE) Well! Dinner’s in the belly and the evening grows dark. (to NADIA) Perhaps we should leave these two and take a stroll in the garden, my dear Nadia. As they say, “After lunch: rest. After dinner: walk a mile!”
NADIA: (annoyed with him) Who says that?
LAPKIN: (gives her a dirty look and pulls IVAN aside) Go ahead, my boy! Tell her how much you love her! And that you want to marry her! Quickly, now!
IVAN: (whispering back) But I don’t want to marry her. I don’t have any feelings for her!
LAPKIN: (shaking his fist to heaven) “They gave the naked man a shirt and he said it was too thick!” (to IVAN) No one cares what you want, you idiot!
(LAPKIN gives IVAN an angry stare and exits with NADIA.)
IVAN: (aside) Oh, lord. Here we go.