By ANTON CHEKHOV
Adapted by ANNIE BAKER
Working with a literal translation by MARGARITA SHALINA and the original Russian text
Directed by JACKIE MAXWELL
Designed by SUE LEPAGE
Lighting designed by REBECCA PICHERACK
Original music by PAUL SPORTELLI
“What still gets me is beauty. I’m not indifferent to beauty.”
For years, Vanya and his niece Sonya have worked tirelessly to keep the family’s dilapidated estate from ruin. The return of Sonya’s father, the Professor, and his beautiful second wife Yelena, throws the harmony of the farm off balance as old loyalties and new loves conflict. Funny and heartbreaking, Chekhov’s masterpiece lays bare his characters’ passions, hopes and desires with warmth and poignancy. This new version, by American playwright Annie Baker (Pulitzer Prize, 2014), gives us a fresh look at this deeply human story.
“In my first season in 2003, I programmed and directed Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. Now in my last season, it feels just right to come full circle with another Chekhov – this time his sublime portrait of the ultimate dysfunctional family struggling as they feel themselves slipping more and more out of sync with the world around them. I am looking forward to working with our company on this timeless story – a perfect ensemble piece that will move you from laughter to tears more than once.” —JM
This show is recommended for ages 14+.
Running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission.
Assistant Stage Manager
Ivan Petrovich (Vanya)
Sophia Alexandrovna (Sonya)
“Nowadays, almost every civilized person, even the most healthy, experiences such irritation nowhere so much as in his own home, his own family, for the discord between present and past is felt first and foremost in the family.” – Anton Chekhov
Subtitled ‘Four Scenes from a Country Life’, the play takes place in a country house filled with family who remind each other of their past, their failings and their present struggles. The ‘Uncle’ of the title is Ivan Petrovich Voinitsky – he is the uncle to Sonya with whom he runs the country estate of her father, a retired Professor. Vanya is 47, unmarried, and not only has the Professor announced his permanent return to the country, he has brought his beautiful second wife, Yelena, with him. And Vanya is jealous:
Vanya: Of course I’m jealous! And his success with women! He’s … he’s like Don Juan! His first wife – my sister – a beautiful, gentle creature, pure as this blue sky, honest, kind, I mean she had more suitors than he’s had students – she loved him, really loved him, the way only angels can love … my mother, his mother-in-law, she still adores him, she’s obsessed with him. His second wife, beautiful, smart – you saw her just now – she married him when he was already an old man. She gave her youth to him, her beauty, her … her freedom. I mean, what for? Why?
His regrets at letting his life slip by, at not seizing opportunities, seem to be stirred up by the Professor and Yelena’s visit. The estate is filled with family and various hangers-on who also seem to feel this sense of dissatisfaction – including ‘Waffles’, a poor dependent who lives on the estate, Astrov, a country doctor who is also unmarried, and Sonya, the Professor’s daughter from his first marriage who is in love with Astrov but has never expressed this to him. When Vanya confesses his love to Yelena, she’s bored by him and declares, “I’m going insane. I almost burst into tears twenty times today. There’s something seriously wrong with this house.”
As the play progresses, we learn of each of the characters dissatisfactions with themselves and with each other. But as with every Chekhov play, their unhappiness is laced with humour – their expressions of love for each other, running in and out of rooms, almost feels like a farce at times. Missed opportunities, old men loving women much too young for them; young women loving men who don’t love them back; and a family struggling to maintain a life and estate in changing times.
The translation we have chosen is by Annie Baker – an American playwright who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for her play The Flick, which the Pulitzer jury cited as “a thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters … rendering lives rarely seen on the stage”. Her version of Uncle Vanya was a hit when it played in New York in 2012 and, as she writes in the note on the play, she had Chekhov in mind when she was writing it: “The goal was to create a version that would make Chekhov happy; to create a version that sounds to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play’s first productions in the provinces in 1898.” She has not updated any of the references but has given the language a feeling of truthfulness. As one reviewer wrote, “What makes Baker’s translation and adaptation superior to any other Uncle Vanya I’ve read or seen is her insistence on strictly following Chekhov’s own maxim that the language should be as simple, authentic, and realistic as possible.”
May 18-20 and September 28-30
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Terrific production of Uncle Vanya. Faultless performances.
A terrific show, brilliantly produced.
Uncle Vanya was excellent – a classic production of a classic play with a cast that managed to find the humour in a sad situation.
Mind-blowing evening @Shawtheatre seeing #UncleVanya.
Anyone having a family will recognize their relatives in this production. Wonderful casting as well.
… and extraordinary example of what happens when great actors and a great play converge.
Uncle Vanya is marvelous! Do not miss it. Repeat: do-not-miss-it.
For a play re Boredom, life’s regrets & lack of achieving joy, it’s certainly full of life! Stellar acting!