If you know David Mamet only from profanity-laced plays like "Glengarry Glen Ross" or "American Buffalo," prepare to see a different side of the playwright.

If you know David Mamet only from profanity-laced plays like "Glengarry Glen Ross" or "American Buffalo," prepare to see a different side of the playwright.

Ohio State's Department of Theatre will present Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters," adapted by Mamet from a literal translation of the Russian by Vlada Chernomordik.

I know what you're thinking - Mamet and Chekhov? In fact, Mamet has adapted three of Chekhov's four major plays and at least one of his stories.

Maureen "Mo" Ryan, director of the OSU production, points out the surprisingly natural fit: "Both playwrights had an affinity for capturing contemporary, colloquial life in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. What appears simple and mundane on the surface based on the tenor of the dialogue is loaded with life-changing ramifications from moment to moment."

That's why Chekhov is challenging, Ryan explained. On the surface, reading the script, there doesn't seem to be much going on.

"These people are just conversing and talking about the stuff of daily life, but every moment, every line of text reflects the subtext of the complex inner life of the character," Ryan said. "If you don't specify every moment of subtext, you can't tell the story."

That story tells of the title trio, their beloved brother, and the limiting choices they make - or that befall them - even as they dream of going to Moscow.

"These are impassioned characters who long for love and fulfillment, and sparks fly," Ryan said. "Do they drop the f-bomb every other word? No. But Chekhov's plays are not dramas of mood trapped in period decorum, as they are often wrongly categorized. They are vital and active renderings of profound human behavior.

"They are slice-of-life plays because Chekhov wants us to see very clearly that we only get one piece of the pie, so we'd better savor it," Ryan continued. "Mamet's good at slice-of-life and understands it as an aesthetic value. I think they share this affinity."

Another affinity, Ryan notes, runs between Chekhov's characters and the OSU student actors and audiences.

As director, Ryan tried to shape the production to appeal to her student actors' youthful sensibilities, she said, to make the play as accessible to them as possible.

"The major characters in this play are their age, and I wanted them to sound as much like contemporaries as possible. I believe Mamet does the best job of that," Ryan said. "Also, from a pedagogical standpoint, it's like killing two birds with one stone: The student actors have the opportunity to act Chekhov and Mamet in one very challenging exercise."

Audiences likewise benefit from the opportunity and the challenge of experiencing the oddest couple of great playwrights together.