Common Hatred at the Ruckus | Theater review

The Ruckus’s purposefully Chekhovian drama is sincerely imitative but isn’t flattering.

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Neal Starbird in Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Scottie Caldwellin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Scottie Caldwell, Julie Cowden, Catherine Bullard and Aaron Deanin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Catherine Bullard and Aaron Deanin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Aaron Dean and Julie Cowdenin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Scottie Caldwell, Catherine Bullard, Neal Starbird and Aaron Deanin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Neal Starbird and Julie Cowdenin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Aaron Deanin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Michael Moran, Julie Cowden and Scottie Caldwellin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Michael Moranin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Scottie Caldwell and Neal Starbirdin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Neal Starbird and Julie Cowdenin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Michael Moran, Aaron Dean and Scottie Caldwellin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Catherine Bullard and Neal Starbirdin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

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Photograph: Gerard Van Halsema

Julie Cowdenin Common Hatred at the Ruckus

A Chekhov play is more than just the sum of its parts. In their effort to create an explicitly Chekhovian family drama set in the contemporary U.S., the Ruckus ensemble and playwright Calamity West take plot elements from the Russian playwright’s best-known works and mash them together into a disjointed, clichéd script. The play begins with three siblings gathering on the anniversary of their parents’ deaths (Three Sisters) to celebrate their brother’s birthday, which coincides with him winning a National Book Award (The Seagull). As the four seasons roll by, the fate of their house (Uncle Vanya) and a rotting tree in their front yard (The Cherry Orchard) become major plot points.

Devised by the ensemble, the script shows an appreciation for Chekhov’s works, but that doesn’t translate to a gripping story. Karie Miller’s inactive staging features characters constantly staring out of windows and delivering long speeches to no one in particular, even when they’re not alone in a room.

Given the plot’s broad scope, exposition becomes a chore, with characters recounting the past to newcomer Sean (Aaron Dean). Sean’s only purpose is to serve as a sounding board, and he’s quickly written out in the last scene. Yet while Dean plays the show’s least-developed character, he also gives the most natural performance, with an unsettling presence that stands out in the flood of theatrical convention.

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