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Elegy for a Lady / The Yalta Game

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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© Richard Lakos
Behind the main theatre, in the smaller more intimate surroundings of the Salberg Studio, the Salisbury Playhouse has produced two short plays, Elegy for a Lady and The Yalta Game. Both are performed by Mark Frost and Ruth Everett. They were written by two different playwrights, Arthur Miller and Brian Friel, but they share the same theme, adultery.

In Elegy for a Lady Mark Frost as a nameless middle-aged man enters a boutique shop. Grief stricken by the impending death of his mistress, he is desperately searching for answers as he looks for something to buy his mistress. He is assisted by Ruth Everett as the proprietress. Eager to help, she makes suggestions and an intimate conversation grows between them.

Miller saw America as a country that ignores its past when it is everywhere. Similarly, the man goes back and forth as he unburdens himself and comes to terms with the history of his relationship. He also begins to see his mistress in the proprietress as the play ends on a poignant note.

Next comes The Yalta Game, the name of a pastime made up by Dimitri. Every year Frost's character visits the Crimean holiday resort, during which he makes up stories about the passing tourists. Brian Friel based this play on The Lady with the Dog, written by Anton Chekov during his time in Yalta. Yalta was seen as a place of new possibilities, and during this play Dimitri discovers this when he meets Anna. He shows her around Yalta, during which a relationship develops between them.

There is more to this play than Elegy. The actors for one have more to do.

Frost portrays the eccentricity of Dimitri, very well, particularly when he tries to explain away his time with Anna as a dream. At the same he shows a growing affection for Anna.

Ruth Everett as Anna is at first hesitant towards Dimitri but then becomes divided over him and her husband. There is however a genuine chemistry between them. Even when it is clear that their relationship can't last forever, the ambiguous ending is touching.

Both plays are absorbing and moving to watch. They also feel intimate within the tiny Salberg studio. Hopefully the Playhouse will put on more productions in this space after the standard of these enchanting plays.

David Jobson