Chekhov & Maria
An Eric Till Feature Film, Screenplay by Jovanka Bach Run Time: 86 minutes
Ron Bottitta as Anton Chekhov
The year is 1901. Handsome, charismatic Russian doctor and playwright Anton (Antosha) Chekhov has just married his lover, Olga Knipper, a beautiful actress with the Moscow Art Theater. “Medicine is my lawful wife. Literature is my mistress,” he’d once claimed. Now, seriously ill with tuberculosis, he returns to his home in Yalta, alone, and stops by the sea to gather his thoughts. And pocket his new wedding ring.
Gillian Brashear as Maria
His Moscow marriage, Chekhov fears, must be kept secret from his possessive sister Maria (Masha), with whom he shares the home in Yalta.
The seeds have been sown for another of Chekhov’s famous plays, this time a family drama (some would say melodrama) which will eventually find its way to the world stage.
Sister Maria greets Chekhov warmly and fusses over his health. She is so protective of her sickly brother that she spurns another man’s overtures, intending to remain his devoted sister-companion for life.
Theirs is a family of secrets, and Maria has a secret too. She has been hijacking Olga’s passionate letters as they arrive at the house, reading, and then hiding them. Maria is jealous, and feels betrayed.
When Chekhov finds out about the purloined letters, he and his sister have a dramatic confrontation, and he returns to Moscow to be with his beloved, leaving Maria to play the part of abandoned ‘wife’.
Yet he always returns to the house in Yalta, where Maria awaits, to adore and care for him. How far she took that devotion has long been speculated among historians and scholars, some of whom have alluded to incest in Chekov’s convoluted love life and ‘familial’ complications.
As grist for the mill, those family sagas have certainly wound their way into some of his greatest plays, among them, ‘Uncle Vanya’, ‘The Cherry Orchard’, and ‘The Three Sisters’.‘
Chekhov once said of his unusual living arrangement: “By all means, I will be married . . . But everything must be as it has been hitherto. She must live in Moscow while I live in the country, and I will come and see her. Give me a wife who, like the moon, won’t appear in my sky every day.”
Olga was by his side when Chekhov died of tuberculosis in 1904 at a German health spa. Both she and sister Maria became co-executors of his estate.
In life, he had kept them well separated. In death, they finally became friends.
The actors Ron Bottitta as Anton Chekhov, and Gillian Brashear as Maria, brilliantly and passionately replay their New York stage roles in this exquisitely produced feature film gem, directed by Eric Till.
Chekhov and Olga...as happy as possible....
The screenplay and original play of ‘Anton and Maria’ were written by Jovanka Bach, who had much in common with Chekhov. Like him, she practiced medicine and wrote for the stage. And she also died prematurely (of cancer) as she completed her own story about his last days.
"Chekhov and Maria" for Academic Distribution $125 USD (price includes academic library, classroom screening and on-campus streaming)