The brilliant, early 20th-century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov gets a fresh new look in the University Theatre’s production of Uncle Vanya, which will run March 26–28 at 8 p.m. and March 30 at 2:30 p.m. in the Cellar Theatre in the Fine Arts Building.
Tickets, which are $10 and $7 for students or those older than 65 with ID, may be purchased at the University Theatre box office located in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building at the corner of Lumpkin and Baldwin streets or at the theatre door beginning one hour prior to show time.
Although the play was written 100 years ago, this production seeks to bring out the timeless qualities of Chekhov’s work. According to George Tovstonogov, the 20th-century Russian director, “Chekhov was ahead of his time, and productions of his plays must not look to the past, and perhaps not even to the theater of the present; Chekhov is a man of the future, and it is there that he must be sought.”
Director Ray Paolino, associate professor of theatre, couldn’t agree more.
“People today are still getting into similar situations as the characters in Uncle Vanya,” he said. “They still fall in love where they’re not supposed to or feel stuck in a choice of mate or profession; they still have to acknowledge they’ve made the wrong turns in their life.”
Paolino pointed out that Chekhov made his reputation as a comic writer, like Mark Twain and Steve Martin; ergo, this production seeks to balance the play’s exquisite pathos with abundant humor, finding the irony and absurdity in the lives of these characters. Music and dances from the 1930s will add a whimsical aura of “a time gone by,” highlighting the characters’ constant, and ultimately futile, attempts to find release from everyday trials.
One especially noteworthy aspect of Uncle Vanya is its remarkably modern-sounding advocacy of what has since become known as environmentalism. Contemporary audiences may be startled to hear urgent warnings about the destruction of the forests and the depletion of Earth’s resources in this play written more than 100 years ago. The arguments offered by Dr. Astrov, a character who advocates passionately for the preservation of the land, are eerily prescient.
Uncle Vanya is the second in the University Theatre’s 2007-2008 studio series; the first was last semester’s groundbreaking broadcast of the radio play War of the Worlds.
Vanya has no designers for costume, set or lights and will be performed in the intimate space of the Cellar Theatre. Paolino views this as ideal.
“The audience will have the chance to see a fully realized imaginary world created with very little cost,” he said. “This gives both audience and actors a chance to focus on the performance and on the interpretation of these rich, layered characters. And in the Cellar Theatre, the audience has such a warm relationship with the performers. It’s like looking into a living room.”