Friday, February 19, 2010


I have finished off my valentine's chocolates, which were Godiva and came in a heart-shaped box, a gift from my one true love. They came with a chart showing labeled pictures of each kind, but that got separated from the box, so each one was a surprise. The kids have finished off most of their chocolates, too, since we've been home for most of the past two weeks while it snows and re-freezes and snows outside.

In between snows we went to see a production of Three Sisters at the local college, which was a very strange experience. When I was in college I played Olga, the oldest sister, and hearing the familiar lines made me realize how long ago that was, and at the same time how little I'd changed.

And then I re-discovered this poem, by Louis Simpson:

Once some people were visiting Chekhov.
While they made remarks about his genius
the Master fidgeted. Finally
he said, 'Do you like chocolates?'

They were astonished, and silent.
He repeated the question,
whereupon one lady plucked up her courage
and murmured shyly, 'Yes.'

'Tell me,' he said, leaning forward,
light glinting from his spectacles,
'what kind? The light, sweet chocolate
or the dark, bitter kind?'

The conversation became general.
They spoke of cherry centers,
of almonds and Brazil nuts.
Losing their inhibitions
they interrupted one another.
For people may not know what they think
about politics in the Balkans,
or the vexed question of men and women,
but everyone has a definite opinion
about the flavor of shredded coconut.
Finally someone spoke of chocolates filled with liqueur,
and everyone, even the author of Uncle Vanya,
was at a loss for words.

As they were leaving, he stood by the door
and took their hands. In the coach returning to Petersburg
they agreed that it had been a most
unusual conversation.

What I love about Three Sisters, when it's done well, is the sense that your suffering can be amusing to me, and of course vice-versa, that suffering can be merely a matter of perspective and timing. The local college production had way too much sobbing in the second and third acts. I think Chekhov would have suggested that the young actresses lighten up a bit. Maybe do something absurd, like picture themselves middle-aged and shaped by years of love and chocolates.


Amanda said...

Godiva is so good, definitely worth their price.

Anonymous said...

In college, I think sobbing is the easiest to understand reaction to grief. The others come with age


Harriet said...

My neighbor went to the Oprah show earlier this week and said that the entire set had been built out of Godiva chocolate. Oprah apparently invited everyone up on stage afterwards to eat the set. It airs 2/22, I think.

And also, I think all college productions of Chekov have too much sobbing. I think you're spot on about the suffering, but I think that's a point largely lost on that age group, where suffering tends to be blinding to all other things.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I hate shredded coconut.

Unknown said...

You know, one of the things I really appreciated about your portrayal of the eldest sister was how reserved she was as a character. It gave the family -- such as it was -- a sense of a core, which you could sort of see surviving Tuzenbach's death...

Cschu said...

Yes, John is right. I'm very sorry that we had to miss Three Sisters this time. I was looking forward to it, and I would be been interested to compare it to the production of so many years ago. And to talk to you about it. (Sigh!)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you have commenters who remember your performance in a college play!

Jeanne said...

Amanda, it was good chocolate!

Lemming, I think you're right about sobbing.

Harriet, an entire set made of chocolate strikes me as peculiar excess! And yes, I think when you're college-age, you tend to focus on suffering.

Readersguide, I don't much like getting a coconut-filled chocolate.

John, that's not something I hear often ("you're so reserved, Jeanne!")but you're right; I still think Olga should be reserved in reaction to Masha's romanticism and Irina's exuberance.

CSchu, it was an interesting week to see it; 30 years later to the day, almost.

Readersguide, my circle of real-life friends includes a lot of people I went to college with...and working on that play was an absolutely unforgettable experience.

Unknown said...

If I remember correctly, the Hendrix production had no sobbing whatsoever...lots of sniffling, at the end, but no sobbing.

That's not to say that there was no overacting -- one scene so unnerved the tech director (every night!) that he made a point of standing by the master cut switch, saying "If he touches her tonight, I swear I'm killing the lights."

Jeanne said...

John, no, there was no sobbing. I didn't do any of the sniffling, either.

Was it you who unnerved the tech director in that scene with Irina?

You had that power over some people...

Jenny said...

That poem is great! Shredded coconut is no good AT ALL and there should be more chocolates that are just chocolate.

I always think of the Ogden Nash poem:

If some confectioners were willing / To let the shape announce the filling, / We'd encounter fewer assorted chocs / Bitten into and returned to the box.


Jeanne said...

Jenny, that poem makes me think of the scene in Victor/Victoria where the blonde bimbo is biting chocolates and putting the uneaten half back in the box. Must have been how she kept her figure!

Anonymous said...

I'm jealous, actually -- most of my closest friends are from college, too, but they live on the east coast and I'm out here and we've sort of fallen out of touch. This will be my project when M goes to school -- to get back in touch with people.

Jeanne said...

Readersguide, We lived on the east coast for so long that we've only had intermittent contact with our friends who've lived out in Seattle most of their adult lives--John is one of them, and we only recently rediscovered the joys of talking to each other--we found each other on Facebook!

Unknown said...

Yes, Jeanne, it was the scene with Irina. Poor Ray really thought I was about to lose it...

Readersguide -- Don't be too jealoues -- yes, it's been a long time since college for Jeanne, Cschu, me, and our spouses. We've periodically lost touch and reconnected over the years.