Three Plays After presents an intriguing assembly of Brian Friel’s engagements with the work of Anton Chekhov.
The Bear, based on what the Russian writer himself called a ‘vaudeville’, or jest, exposes his characters’ barely disguised terrors and confused hopes and exhibits early signals of a deeply potent style. In The Yalta Game, elaborating a theme in ‘The Lady with the Lapdog’, two strangers almost convince each other that ‘disappointments are merely the postponement of the complete happiness to come’, while in Afterplay Brian Friel introduces a pair of characters twenty years after Chekhov first brought them to life in separate plays and fleshes the experiences they might have had and the relationship they might pursue.
As it glances at the shades of marriage and studies the appetites and sustenances of love, the book is a bonus — further marvels by a master craftsman and one of the finest playwrights in English.
Review of Afterplay at the Gate Theatre ★★★★
Brian Friel was often described as the Irish Chekhov. In his plays from the 1970s, in particular Living Quarters and Aristocrats, his study of loneliness, decay and the disappearance of a way of life chimed with the melancholic languor of Chekhov’s masterpieces. Indeed, Friel would prove himself to be an adept translator of the Russian’s work, offering versions of Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya among other English-language adaptations of Chekhov’s plays. It is with true Chekhovian spirit, then, that Friel approaches Afterplay, which takes two minor characters from Chekhov’s canon and allows us to realise the more subtle tragedies of the Russian master’s dramatic worlds . . . The real beauty of Afterplay, however, lies not in its intertextuality but in its richness as a stand-alone piece. It works just as well as a universal portrait of middle-age despair as a coda to Chekhov’s earlier work, so even if you have never witnessed Masha’s heartbreak or Uncle Vanya’s decline, you will find much to connect with in this portrayal of life in its brief moments of happiness and longer moments of disappointment. — The Irish Times