Although I have many reasons to want to do theatre in USA - to get away from home for a bit, see friends, earn a better salary, meet the challenge of eight performances a week - I realize that what I enjoy most about Broadway is what I very rarely get a sense of working in UK and that is being a success. I don’t, thank God, crave it every minute and I don’t want to live full-time in this country where success is too high on the list of priorities but it is certainly part of what I like about being an actor. If I can get an injection of it every seven or eight years in New York, aren’t I lucky?” — Playbill December 1986.
The body of Chekov's work is humorous. It's as if Jules Feiffer wrote a play. You expect a dark undercurrent, but you also expect — rightly — to laugh. Every scene in our play is in the Chekov. What Michael Frayn has done is cut a great deal of the moralising and philosophising. There are long, long speeches from Platonov and others on the nature of society and the world, much as there are in the first act of Three Sisters. Frayn stresses the comedy because he feels that that is the maturer side of the play. The rest is a little indigestible and betrays Chekov's inexperience.
It doesn't surprise me now that there are so many laughs in this play. All that Frayn's done is elegantly phrase them so they're more likely to get a reaction. While we were rehearsing in London I could see it was a very entertaining play. I could see parts of it were meant to be funny, but I was absolutely unable to get ahold of the character, and I didn't look in the direction of comedy. It was only when we met an audience for the first time that I realized that all the gaps that I'd felt in the character had to be filled with laughter. The comedy's very assured. There's no doubt in Frayn's translation exactly what the intentions are.
Platanov is a terrible person — and absolutely delightful. I have met people who are always telling everybody else how to behave and then behaving outrageously themselves. Somehow you forgive them. Platanov is one of those people.
Audiences sit and roar their heads off during the play. But this being Chekov, there's more to it than that. The six-pence turns and the comedy turns to tears. This man is not only causing havoc in other people's lives, he's causing havoc in his own.