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TO JUNE 18
Classika Theatre’s production of A Month in the Country suffers from the same malady that afflicted many productions of my high school drama department: The female cast members outshine, outdo, and outtalent their male compatriots at a level inversely proportional to the production’s 2-to-5 female-to-male ratio. Directed by Classika’s artistic director and co-founder, Inna Shapiro, this new translation of Ivan Turgenev’s 1850 drama is, plotwise, akin to your basic Merchant-Ivory movie: Rich, older woman Natalia (played believably and passionately by solid pro Amy McWilliams) shows her true bitchy colors by falling for a young, educated stud—betraying in one fell swoop her husband, lover, and young female ward. McWilliams nails her part so well I wanted to meet her after the show and escort her to the Shakespeare Theatre for an audition. And as her protegee Vera, Julia Benn adds life and purpose to every scene she graces, despite having her wings painfully clipped by her below-par male co-stars, who can’t seem to work out who among them is the fop, the fool, the lover, the patriarch, or the cuckold. Unflinching in the face of a Doug Henning-esque light show and the play’s too-loud soundtrack of nearly continuous classical music and cheeseball jazz, the audience ate it up. But I was too distracted wondering why the disorienting blocking put some of the show’s most important moments upstage, far away from the audience and almost beyond the range of even the most gifted actors. At 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, June 18, at Classika Theatre, 4041 S. 28th St., Arlington. $15-$17. (703) 824-6200. (Amanda Fazzone)