Vancouver Theatre: Uncle Vanya
Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
Translated by Peter Petro and edited for performance by Errol Durbach and John Wright
Directed by John Wright
Blackbird Theatre Company
The Cultch Historic Theatre
until Jan 18 th 2014.
Vancouver, BC: It's a grey, damp, rainy early morning in Vancouver.As I look out toward the ominous grey clouds over the skyline of the buildings across the waters of False Creek, I see small patches of blue sky peaking through and it reminds me of the faint note of hope on which Uncle Vanya ends.
As I have written before, on reading Chekhov, I have always struggled with the angst and depression of his characters (Playing Uncle Vanya: A Chat with Anthony Ingram) but after visiting the dacha in Crimea where he wrote The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard (Black Sea Cruise: Yalta, Anton Chekhov), I resolved that this would be the year when I finally figure out why his plays are so revered. Happily I think this production has done that for me.
Sub-titled Scenes From Country Life and set in late nineteenth-century pre-revolutionary Russia, the play takes place in the country estate of retired art Professor Serebryakov (Duncan Fraser). Vanya (Anthony F. Ingram) and his niece, Sonya (Cherise Clarke), daughter of Serebryakov's first wife, have been running the estate while the Professor pursued his academic career. Now retired, Serebryakov has brought his much younger, beautiful second wife Yelena (Luisa Jojic) to spend the summer at the estate. Yelena becomes an object of desire to Vanya and as well to the local country doctor Astrov, (Robert Moloney), who is disillusioned with his medical practice and is more concerned with ensuring that the local forests are preserved. Sonya is desperately in love with Astrov, who barely notices her existence. Also living on the estate are Madame Voynitsky (Donna White) mother of Vanya and grandmother to Sonya, Marina (Mary Black) an elderly nanny, and Telyegin (Stephen Aberle) an impoverished land owner who helps out on the estate.
The play is character- driven and we see into the hearts and minds of this Russian middle class family, living out their lives of "quiet desperation". Much of the early part of the play revolves around the tedium of life on the estate and the misery of the unrequited love interests but the anger and resentment that underlies Vanya's sense of a wasted life, boils to the surface when the totally self-absorbed professor announces that he wants to sell the estate, and events start to spin out of control.
Director Wright staged the play in the round to bring the characters closer to the audience. This choice and his ability to draw out from the actors so much of the inner life of their characters, often with a dark humour, succeeded in drawing me into their lives so I could almost forgive their depressing, fatalistic, malevolent universe viewpoints. I just don't know if I would want to wait for the afterlife to know peace.
The acting was superb and overall I enjoyed the production. It only runs for another week and last night was a full house, so get your tickets quickly.
For tickets call 604-251-1363 or buy online