Bulgarian playwright Zachary Karabashliev’s 2008 play, about two entwined dysfunctional families and their messed-up lives, was written originally in English and then translated into Bulgarian by the author before being presented in his home country. (This is why it is only now receiving its English-language world premiere.) Sunday Evening is not perfect. Karabashliev favors a fragmented storytelling style that shatters expectations of a linear plotline—and at times leaves the audience scrambling to put together what is happening.
This fragmentation works, to a point, to portray how the characters’ lives are disintegrating. But the current production, as directed by Zlatomir Moldovanski in the inaugural production of the Rose Valley Theatre Group, can’t seem to keep up with the play. The tempo of the show opening night felt off, with some scenes passing too quickly, and others plodding along at a purgatorial pace. Some of the acting is stiff and pedestrian, with line deliveries that don’t capture the full depth of feeling behind them.
An exception is Chicago newcomer Rachel Sepiashvili, who displays real fire in her portrayal of Rose, a frustrated artist desperate to get out of her suffocating marriage. There is still much that works in a play that dares to make us laugh one minute and gasp the next at how awful life can be. Again and again Karabashliev proves the universality of despair: existential unhappiness feels the same in Los Angeles (where the current play takes place) and Sofia (where the play premiered). v