“Uncle Vanya”


Dealing with Russian “anything” at this time in our country is a tense subject, but the new production of  “Uncle Vanya” in a new adaptation by Annie Baker, is now in the Owen Theatre at The Goodman. The production is directed by Robert Falls, who shows his true understanding of the work (which by the way was taken from a “literal translation” from the original text). This was Chekhov’s masterpiece, dealing with a topic that everyone understands, LIFE!

Chekhov’s characters are living in a world that ties them together, but in a place where they are not at all comfortable. Our main character is  “Uncle Vanya” (actual characters name is Ivan Petrovich, played handsomely by Tim Hopper). The house they reside in is a large one, although for our purposes, the action takes place in one large room, with an outside courtyard and views into another area of the house. Todd Rosenthal has created an amazing house. One that is “weathered and withered”. Times are tough and money is not as plentiful as it used to be.

Vanya’s sister had been married to a professor, one Alexander Serebryakov (a sterling portrayal by David Darlow), who is now residing in the home, which was in her name. She has passed away, and he has remarried, a much younger woman, Yelena Andreyevna ( the lovely  Kristen Bush). The Professor’s daughter, and Vanya’s niece Sophia (deftly handled by  Caroline Neff) also lives with her father and uncle in the house, which as it turns out was left to her. If you are confused, wait, there is more.

Under the same roof, we have Maria Vasiyevna (another fine performance by one of my favorite character actresses, Marilyn Dodds Frank) who is Vanya’s mother and Sophia’s grandmother and Marina, a nanny (well-played by Mary Ann Thebus) who is like a permanent fixture on the property having been there “forever”. The other main characters in the story include Ilya, a neighbor landowner played to perfection by Larry Neumann, Jr. He seems to be there all the time and is almost like a member of the family. There is also a doctor who comes by on a regular basis to make sure that the Professor is okay. The Doctor is played by Marton Csokas. These are the main characters. Two additional actors, Alzan Pelsesic and Olexiy Kryvych play the hired workers on the estate.

Now that you know the characters, what you need to know about them is that the Doctor and Vanya are both in love with Yelena. Sophia is in love with the Doctor, and it appears that the Professor wants to sell off the property and move back into the city. This is a play about relationships, and life, and having the ability to look at the way you live and examine if it is the best way to be living. In this case, the professor did own the estate, but he gave it to his “late” wife, who in turn willed it to their daughter. How does this affect each and every other character? That is what the story tells us. We get to watch their reactions and actions as the story unfolds and they look at bother their pasts and their futures.

The Owen is the studio, black-box venue in The Goodman. For this production, the stage is open (as in most) and the walls and ceiling of the set merge with the audience section of the theater, bringing the intimacy of the two together. When the roof of the estate springs a leak, one can see the audience members flinch, thinking they will get splashed. (they don’t). The technical aspects of the production are perfect, with lighting by Keith Parham, sound design by Richard Woodbury and costumes by Ana Kuzmanic. There are tons of props in this production, yet there is no mention of a propmaster, so I am going to give credit to the stage manager, Kimberly Osgood for everything on the stage that was not already mentioned.The Goodman has put together a cast of players from the most notable Chicago Theater Companies. It is like an “all-star” cast!

“Uncle Vanya” will continue at The Goodman thru March 19th (it has already had a one week extension) with performances as follows:
Tuesday, February 28th  7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.
Thursdays  7:30 p.m.
Fridays  8 p.m.
Saturdays  2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays  7:30 p.m.
There will also be 2 p.m. performances on March 5th and March 19th.
There are many events and accessibility performances-visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/access
Tickets range from $20-$59 (open seating) and can be purchased at the box office located at 170 N. Dearborn Street, by calling 312-443-3800 or at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/UncleVanya
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Uncle Vanya”.