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Quotidian explores obscure Chekhov with ‘Lady With the Little Dog’

Charming production depicts Russian romance

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Ian Blackwell Rogers as Guroy and Chelsea Mayo as Anna in ‘The Lady With the Little Dog.’ (Photo by St. John Blondell)

Ian Blackwell Rogers as Guroy and Chelsea Mayo as Anna in ‘The Lady With the Little Dog.’ (Photo by St. John Blondell)

‘The Lady with the Little Dog’ 
Through Aug. 7
Quotidian Theatre Company 
4508 Walsh Street in Bethesda, Md. 20815
$30 (discounts for seniors and students)
301-816-1023

Russian writer Anton Chekhov is known foremost as a dramatist.

His quartet of classics “The Seagull,” “Uncle Vanya,” “Three Sisters” and “The Cherry Orchard” — all ensemble pieces noted for their focus on character and mood rather than plot — are among theater’s most-produced and adored plays. But Chekhov was also a masterful and prolific writer of short fiction. His melancholy romantic tale “Lady with the Dog” (1899) ranks among his best and is now tailored for the stage at Quotidian Theatre Company in Bethesda.

Lovingly adapted as “The Lady with the Little Dog” and staged by Quotidian co-founder Stephanie Mumford, the hour-long play is an imaginative take on the original work. Fortyish banker Dmitry Gurov (Ian Blackwell Rogers) is sliding into middle age. Long bored with his wife and uninterested in family life, he’s had many affairs and expects to have many more. Vacationing alone in Yalta, the fashionable Russian seaside resort, Gurov is charmed by Anna Sergeyevna (Chelsea Mayo), a much younger woman, also alone, who’s in Yalta ostensibly to correct ill health, but is in fact enjoying a temporary escape from dull provincial life where she is unhappily but faithfully married to a government flunky.

Gurov is aware of their age difference: he notes his graying hair and increasingly plain looks and that Anna is not long out of school, but he remains undaunted. The confident philanderer is certain he will have her. As they become acquainted, Gurov says, “I own two houses in Moscow but I no longer sing.” In that short sentence, Gurov imparts the essence of his secure but joyless existence. That will soon change, however. What starts out as a flirtation grows into a passion and then something more.

As director and costume and set designer, Mumford deftly captures the atmosphere of Chekhov and late 19th century bourgeois Russia. Her crowded set includes the compartments that make up Gurov’s life. Stage left is Gurov’s Moscow home complete with three cardboard cutout children. On stage right is the hotel room where he and Anna secretly meet. Bridging those two worlds are Vernet’s coffee pavilion and the seaside promenade — public spaces where the lovers first met.

Mumford further adds to the mood with projections of paintings depicting the natural glories of Yalta, and live classical Russian music played beautifully by pianist Zach Roberts and violinist Christine Kharazian. Roberts doubles as Anna’s ambitious husband and Kharazian brings humor to the role of Gurov’s bespectacled wife, a solemn, self-described intellectual.

Mayo is compelling as guilt-ridden but determined Anna. Rogers gives a nuanced performance as restrained Gurov whose occasional wild eyes reveals his inner turmoil. David Dubov narrates the action as Chekhov, and plays various waiters and friends of Gurov.

Like ambiguity filled real life, “Little Dog” ends on an uncertain note. “And it seemed that, just a little more and the solution would be found, and then a new, beautiful life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that the end was still far, far off, and that the most complicated and difficult part was just beginning.”

Nothing is tied up neatly with a bow. That’s the way Chekhov liked it.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Tennessee all-ages drag brunch

New Beginnings in Johnson City raises $3,500 to combat gun violence in schools

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A member of the Little City Sisters, a newly-formed chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, holds a sign during the all-ages drag brunch at New Beginnings in Johnson City, Tenn. on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New Beginnings in Johnson City, Tenn., held an all-ages drag brunch on Sunday, March 26 — just days before the state’s anti-drag law was scheduled to take effect. The event was a fundraiser for the Johnson City school system to help prevent gun violence. Organizers announced that $3,500 was raised.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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PHOTOS: Miss Charm City

Stormi Skye crowned the winner

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Stormi Skye is crowned Miss Charm City 2023 at the Baltimore Eagle on Friday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Miss Charm City pageant was held at the Baltimore Eagle on Friday, March 24. Stormi Skye was crowned the winner. Both Skye and first alternate Sorority Heights qualified to compete in the upcoming Miss Gay Maryland competition later this year.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Trans women banned from track and field, intersex athletes restricted

World Athletics Council policy to go into effect March 31

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CeCé Telfer (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

The organization that makes the rules for track and field meets around the world declared Thursday it will bar transgender women who have experienced male puberty from competing, a move that was anticipated following a similar trans ban issued last year by the governing body for world swimming.

As the Associated Press noted, at this moment there are zero trans women competing at the elite level of track and field. But the edict, which the World Athletics Council announced will take effect on the Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, is crushing news for one hopeful. 
In May 2019, CeCé Telfer won the 400m hurdles at the Division II championships and became the first out trans woman to win an NCAA title. She’s been training ever since for her shot at the Olympics, despite being ruled ineligible for Beijing at the trials in 2021. The Jamaican-American had set a goal of qualifying for Paris in 2024. But the World Athletics ban ends that dream.

Telfer tweeted Thursday, “It feels as though the world stopped moving.”

Another ruling by the group will likely mean no shot at the Olympics for another Black woman athlete, two-time gold medalist Caster Semenya. The South African track icon is not trans, but because of her higher than typical testosterone levels, she has been barred from competing in her signature event, the 800m. World Athletics took that from her around the same time Telfer made history, in May 2019. 

The group issued an eligibility ruling that prohibits female athletes like Semenya who have Differences in Sexual Development from competing in women’s events, from the 400m to one mile (1600m), unless they reduce their testosterone levels. So, Semenya chose to run in longer events than she did previously. She finished 13th in her qualifying heat at 5,000 meters at world championships last year as she worked to adapt to longer distances, in preparation for Paris. 

“I’m in the adaptation phase, and my body is starting to fit with it. I’m just enjoying myself at the moment, and things will fall into place at the right time,” the South African runner told the AP.

That time may now never come. On Thursday, World Athletics announced athletes who have DSD will have to undergo hormone-suppressing treatment and maintain a testosterone level of below 2.5nmol/L for 24 months, in order to be eligible to compete in any event in the female category.

Semenya vowed following the 2019 ruling that she would never again take any testosterone suppressing medication, terming the rules discriminatory and unfair.

This new rule could impact not only Semenya but also as many as a dozen other elite runners, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. Among them, Olympic 200-meter silver medalist Christine Mboma of Namibia, who won a silver medal in Tokyo two years ago but didn’t compete last year because of an injury. Mboma has not publicly stated whether she would be willing to undergo hormone therapy.

Like Semenya, Olympic 800-meter silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has said she will not undergo hormone suppression. 

Even though Niyonsaba, Mboma and Semenya are not trans like Telfer and former Connecticut high school track athletes Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller — who have been targeted in federal court by opponents of inclusion — there is one thing all these women have in common: They are all women of color, and all targeted for being too fast because of their natural gifts.

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