The subtitle of Leonard D. Goodisman’s new play Checkoff in the Sun, now being staged at Capitol Hill’s Eclectic Theater, is “a comedy about dying.” There’s a very obvious pun in the title and the flavor of the famous playwright Chekhov permeating the play.
“The pun just sort of popped out when (my character) Victoria asks, ‘Why did you come here, just to check me off a list?’” Goodisman said.
Goodisman’s subject is Victoria, a woman who is in the end stages of dealing with cancer, yet still in control of her decisions and desires. Victoria calls together her family and best friends to a villa in the Southwestern desert. It’s a Palm Springs or Tucson type property that her real estate friend hasn’t sold yet. Though they really shouldn’t be in the property, they accept her wish and travel to this destination to say goodbye and resolve what they can of loose ends, things unsaid, broken moments unmended.
Yet, there is a lot of humor woven into the play. Goodisman, who says he is a fan of the Russian writer, reminds that Chekhov thought of himself as a humorist. He says that the leading figure of Russian theater, Stanislavski, chose to direct The Cherry Orchard as a tragedy, and “Chekhov stood for that and it’s been done as a tragedy ever since. I see the comedy in all his plays.”
“The play was taking form on its own and I saw Chekhov on my shoulder and I realized that there was a lot of interesting relevance there… and the role that it played popped into my head and onto the paper very readily,” Goodisman said.
Goodisman says that there are other obvious parallels in his new work with Chekhov. “Chekhov was talking about the rise of labor and the rise of the middle class and writing about it. My characters also argue. Who’s got the money, who’s got the culture? Politics and art and who has the right handle on it. And who loves who more and who is closest to whom and who is most special and what their responsibilities are to each other.”
Goodisman says he’s worked on the play, off and on, for about five years. He says he considers this staging at Eclectic “a developmental production.”
“I was making changes during rehearsal,” he said. “Cold readings aren’t the way an actor tries to become the character. I made radical changes until the last possible day I could, but it was too late to give them to the cast. There is already a version that is beyond what you see on stage. I continue to work on it,” he said.
For information on the play, which runs through April 19th, 8PM Thu- Sat and 2PM Sun, visit Brown Paper Tickets. Eclectic Theater is located at 1214 10th Ave.