The Moving Company found inspiration for their new piece in Anton Chekhov, specifically the way his plays tap “an undercurrent of profound societal change about to burst.” As the company opened The 4 Seasons on the Lab Theater stage on the weekend before midterm elections, there was no doubt that artists and audiences alike were feeling the tug of such a current.
The Lab Theater
Much analysis since the 2016 election has focused on the anxieties of white working-class men who threw themselves behind Donald Trump to allay their fears of being displaced in an increasingly pluralistic society. The 4 Seasons considers the concerns of the rest of America, who see that our dedication to an abstract but noble idea—democracy—is being replaced by an increasingly concrete commitment to white supremacist patriarchy.
Not that the play’s characters ever put it quite so explicitly. On its surface, The 4 Seasons follows a year in the lives of three unnamed hotel cleaning workers, played by Heidi Bakke, Joy Dolo, and Steven Epp. Dominique Serrand directs the show, which he conceived with Epp and Nathan Keepers.
To get a sense of The 4 Seasons, imagine if My Dinner with Andre focused not on a pair of restaurant diners, but on a trio of dishwashers in the kitchen. As Epp, Dolo, and Bakke go about their daily rounds—vacuuming, making beds, unclogging drains—they share their hopes and fears. Mostly their fears.
While the characters share a clear empathy, they also seem to be only half-listening to each other. One soliloquy leads to another, responding thematically rather than directly. If you love the existential side of Chekhov but hate the way his characters fight like kids at the dinner table, this might be your jam.
In keeping with the interior setting, physical evidence of the passing months is minimal. Snow blows in through a door; Epp rakes a few leaves off the lawn that serves as a bedroom carpet.
There’s also a lighthearted episode in a simulated swimming pool that provides welcome respite from the piece’s bleak mood, but don’t expect the kind of physical invention that characterized the company’s recent Speechless. This is a play about language and its limits.
These are three commanding artists, but in a piece about powerlessness, all are understated. Dolo provides the play’s most gripping moments, and it’s not coincidental that those moments come when she speaks about those who aren’t being spoken for amid all of this anxious verbiage. At one point she screams into a toilet, the kind of cathartic moment these characters are typically denied.