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Theater Review: 'Ivanov' -- 2 stars

Ethan Hawke, left, and Joely Richardson in

Ethan Hawke, left, and Joely Richardson in "Ivanov" Photo Credit: Ethan Hawke, left, and Joely Richardson in "Ivanov"

2 stars

Chekhov's unparalleled quartet of character-driven dramas - "The Seagull," "Three Sisters," "The Cherry Orchard," and "Uncle Vanya" - are consistently revived by theater companies specializing in the classics.

And then there's "Ivanov," Chekhov's earliest and most rarely performed play, which stands out like a forgotten sibling.

Off-Broadway's pre-eminent Classic Stage Company, having staged all the Chekhov classics during the past four years (last season's "The Cherry Orchard" with Dianne Wiest was especially outstanding), is finishing off its Chekhov marathon with "Ivanov."

The play studies a previously idealistic man in his early 30s now trapped in a dangerous state of depression, apathy and mounting debts.

Played here by Ethan Hawke, Ivanov shamelessly ignores his dying wife in order to rail at the world, rant at his friends and pursue a much younger woman.

Director-actor-playwright Austin Pendleton, who previously staged "Uncle Vanya" and "Three Sisters" for Classic Stage, not only directs "Ivanov" but has also taken on a supporting role. (Louis Zorich, originally cast as Lebedev, had to withdraw due to a foot injury.)

While Pendleton is delightfully kooky as Ivanov's laid-back pal, the production itself proves to be slow, long and tiresome.

With wildly unkempt hair, Hawke plays Ivanov rather like a lazy stoner, often speaking in a hushed, low voice and then suddenly snapping and pouring out his anger. It is an ineffective rendition of an already unsympathetic character. Hardly the kind of person you'd want to spend three hours with.

It's strange how Juliet Rylance, who plays Lebedev's spirited daughter Sasha, is the only one in the cast who uses an English accent. But more problematic is how she never really connects with Hawke, who is supposed to be seduced by her.

If you go: "Ivanov" plays through Dec. 9 at Classic Stage Company. 136 E. 13th St., 212-677-4210,


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