THE TREATMENT: Review Rundown

Thankfully, there’s plenty of sly wit and food for thought in this wacky but incisive view of a cuckoo’s nest, and Chekhov’s trenchant social commentary still rings true. Credit is due to Richard Alger and Tina Kronis, who co-conceived the piece. Alger adapted Chekhov’s text, while Kronis directs and choreographs. The marvelous visual designs—Jeff Webster’s fluid sets, Christopher Kuhl’s lighting, Ellen McCartney’s costumes—impart a classical feel, though many textual references (to reality TV, SUVs, lottery tickets, and more) suggest a modern-day setting.

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GO! The late Martha Graham liked to say that the body does not lie, that movement does not lie. With writer-partner Richard Alger, director-choreographer Tina Kronis and her Theatre Movement Bazaar company have developed Graham’s ethos into a strikingly original and expressive form of physical theater whose thrilling lyricism and cool élan have powered an impressive cycle of playfully probing adaptations of Chekhov. The pair’s latest entry in the series does not disappoint. This time out, Kronis and Alger use Chekhov’s wryly satirical short story “Ward No. 6” as inspiration for a captivating, Brechtian parable of cupidity, solipsism and self-deceptive illusion. After years of pining away for intellectually stimulating company, Dr. Ragin (Mark Doerr), the impotent director of a pestilential provincial hospital, believes he has met his match in Gromov (the fine Mark Skeens), an articulate but hopelessly paranoid psychotic condemned to the institution’s infamous lunatic wing, Ward 6. Ragin actually taking an interest in a patient only sets off an ironic chain reaction of his undoing. Alger peppers the play with enough anachronisms and contemporary cultural references to drive home the parallel to our own perilous times, while Kronis stirs the pot with exhilarating dance sequences executed by her precision-perfect ensemble and given added lift by a polished, poetic production design. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 25. (626) 683-6883, (Bill Raden)

“The Treatment” is innovative theater, but then that’s what both companies involved with this production are all about. It’s a chance to encounter less-well-known Chekhov, which for me is always a singular delight. More than that, images from this piece will hum in your head afterward, as great storytelling always does, allowing the nuances in the cracks between sentences to shine ever more brightly. This is, by definition, the kind of thing theater can do which no other medium can match.

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Don’t worry. Alger hasn’t Disneyfied Chekov and given us a happy ending. There’s plenty of tragedy and the play still erases the fine line between the sane and insane. Yet with all the roles played by men, the asymmetrical and some times only half there costumes by Ellen McCartney and the expressive ensemble choreography and direction by Tina Kronis, “The Treatment” brings kooky to crazy.

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For the past decade, Theater Movement Bazaar has been busy defining a style, an aesthetic.

Tina Kronis and Richard Alger are the creative duo at the company’s helm. They’ve covered everything from Cold War nuclear angst mixed with sexual politics to international espionage through the filter of Orpheus and Eurydice. Alger provides the words, Kronis the choreography and direction. Alger’s texts have more in common with a DJ remixing rhythms than with a traditional playwright. His scripts have sampled everything from Strindberg to the Betty Crocker Cook Book. Kronis sets these words to a precise choreography that provides a physical punctuation and visual through-line. The worlds they created were a wonderfully bizarre mash-up of the wackiness of Richard Foreman mixed with the gestural precision of Pina Bausch.

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Theater Movement Bazaar continues its investigation into the works of Anton Chekhov with “The Treatment,” a movement theater riff on “Ward 6,” one of the Russian author’s indisputable masterpieces of short fiction. A collaboration with the Theatre @ Boston Court, which is hosting the production, the piece isn’t so much an adaptation as a playfully stylized response to the story of a doctor who goes from supervising mental patients to joining their ranks.

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Many Americans are under the impression that the problem with our mental health care isn’t that so many people are abandoned and neglected in government-run institutions but that government cutbacks have forced too many mentally ill people into the streets – and the ranks of the homeless. Nor is there much indication in The Treatmentthat its institutionalized characters people rely on the latest drugs – an essential factor in contemporary treatment of the mentally ill.

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The Treatment, a collaboration between Theatre Movement Bazaar and [The] Theatre @ Boston Court, offers the full works: movement, music, amusement, and emotion applied to a short story masterpiece, Chekhov’s Ward 6. The world premiere marks director/choreographer Tina Kronis and writer Richard Alger’s third consecutive adaptation of the good doctor’s material. The result is an effervescent tonic that stimulates but too often keeps us at a clinical distance.

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Review Rundown update as they come in. 


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