The tragedy of Ivanov repeats as farce in Boni B. Alvarez’s NICKY, an inspired Chekhov transposition in a world premiere production by the Coeurage Theatre Company, directed by Beth Lopes. But despite the levity induced by the update—NICKY’s pack of contemporary Russians migrates between San Francisco and their investment properties in Palm Springs, where they have gathered to celebrate Sasha’s twenty-first birthday—the characters in the new play cannot escape the discordant decline of their antecedents.

Paterfamilias Pavel (Daniel Kaemon)—in love with his wife, his family, and the endless glasses of vodka necessary to maintain his joie de vivre—is a fit, robust charmer who could not be prouder of his gay son Sasha. For his birthday party, Sasha is joined by three friends—a pair of queens, Julian and Bryce, and a girlfriend, Renee; Sasha’s droll aunt Aurora calls them “the University of San Francisco’s finest.” Aurora is a professional matchmaker, and after Julian points out that Palm Springs is full of gay daddies looking to settle down, Aurora opens her eyes and doubles her business.

Sasha—hopeful, cynical, impulsive, impossible—requires no such matchmaking, since the love of his life has always been around: Nicky, his father’s best friend, a walking ghost of a repressed past who can’t face Anna, his dying wife.

Cyrus Wilcox beautifully captures Nicky’s self-loathing and his passive, listless anomie. In roles that require riveting outbursts of abjection, Sandy Velasco (Anna) and Chris Aguila (Sasha) fully inhabit characters whose love for Nicky will not be denied.

Per Coeurage policy, admission to all performances is Pay-What-You-Want.

NICKY, through July 1.

GREENWAY COURT THEATRE, 544 North Fairfax, Los Angeles.

Image credit: Coeurage Theatre Company

Image credit: Coeurage Theatre Company

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