Wild HoneyMichael Frayn is best known as the author of Noises Off, one of the most delightful farces ever written. But he also has devoted much of his life to translating the plays of Chekhov. Wild Honey is both a translation and an adaptation of an early, obscure, untitled Chekhov effort. The messy script has received occasional stagings under the title Platonov (named for the leading male character). There are stirrings here of themes and actions that will find fuller life in The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. But as freely adapted by Frayn (and retitled to point up the story's emphasis on forbidden sexual attraction), Wild Honey satisfies on its own account. Frayn has packed it with humor. The premiere production in 1984 at England's National Theatre, with Ian McKellen dazzling in the lead role, was one of the most memorable evenings of theater I've ever known. When McKellen repeated his performance with an American cast in New York, the show faltered. I've never heard of another staging. Hence, this is not only lost Chekhov, it is lost Frayn.
Space precludes my adding Heinar Kipphardt's docudrama In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Brian Friel's Irish elegy Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Terence Rattigan's British classic The Winslow Boy to the list. Had I written this same column a year ago, I would have included Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, the debut offering by the St. Louis Actors' Studio; and Paul Osborn's delectable portrait of small-town Americana, Morning's at Seven, which is to be staged next month by Stray Dog. For both, much thanks.
What about you? If there are plays that you would especially like to see staged in St. Louis, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or post to the comments thread of this article online and we’ll run your suggestions in the near future.