“Common Hatred,” currently running at The Side Project, was created as a modern-day update/commentary/response-to/meditation-on the plays of Chekhov. Devised by director Karie Miller, playwright Calamity West, and the cast of six, the play tackles the way the world has changed and the way the world has stayed the same since Chekhov’s time. As it turns out, human misery is still alive and kicking hard as ever.
Three siblings, consisting of boozy architect, Andrew (Neal Starbird), high-strung worrier Olivia (Scottie Caldwell) and alpha male author Sean (Michael Moran), engage in an emotional and financial tug-of-way over their late parents lasting legacy: the house in which the three grew up in. True to Chekhov, the passing of time (a few years in 100 minutes) allows the fortunes of some to rise as others fall and for relationships to shift. Some blooming, some withering, others only just forming before they are snuffed out altogether. The play is Chekhovian all right, maybe even to a fault.
The cast is a strong one, with notable standouts mostly among the supporting characters: Catherine Bullard as Leigh, Olivia’s bubbly college roommate, Julie Cowden as Margaret, Sean’s acerbic wife and, as the show’s highlight, Aaron Dean as Steve, Sean’s superhumanly awkward editor. Dean’s prodding, monotone delivery and impish vulnerability make Steve the x-factor in any scene. You never know quite where he’s going to go next.
The script, by West, is good but suffers occasionally from awkward exposition and infodumps. And while it achieves a nice sense of natural rhythms of conversation, it can sometimes seem a little undercooked, missing as it is the delicate poetry that held Chekhov’s works intact. Miller has crafted a fine ensemble and handles the cramped environs of The Side Project very well. She keeps the play on low burn with occasional bursts of flame throughout. Ultimately, I think the one thing I had wished for was something a little less like actual Chekhov. Rather than mimicking his voice, I wish “Common Hatred” had done more to find its own.