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Friday, May 8, 2009

Review- Uncle Vanya (Recession Theatre Co.)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

Recently, I saw Roundabout’s production of Hedda Gabler, and I commented to my companion on how exciting it was to hear an audience react so passionately to the plot as if hearing it for the first time (which perhaps many of them were). Regardless, it was wonderful to see such a brilliant classic still reach audiences. Recession Theatre Co.’s current production of Uncle Vanya at the Player’s Theatre grabs audiences in a similar fashion. Minimal in it’s approach, though Chekhov rarely needs more than a samovar and a guitar, much attention was obviously paid to the basics.

Gwenevere Sisco ( Sonya), Dorota Krimmel ( Yelena)
photo credit: Janusz Marecki

The plot follows the titled Vanya (Bob McCartin) and his niece Sonya (Gwenevere Sisco) who run a small estate in turn of the century Russia. The estate was left to Sonya by her deceased mother, Vanya’s sister, although the proceeds go to support her father Alexander (Alan Altschuler) and his new young wife Yelena (Dorota Krimmel). Alexander and Yelena can no longer afford their extravagant lifestyle and are forced to return to the estate, bringing with them a life of boredom. The attitude of Yelena and Alexander slowly seeps into the household like an infection, causing the upright noble Doctor Astrov (Aylam Orian) to attempt seduction, Sonya to consider a life of love, and the hardworking Vanya to finally give into contempt. Where The Three Sisters is a piece about people who believe good times will come in three or four years, Vanya is about a family who knows nothing good will come until they are dead. As is shown often in the play, people who are born to create are often merely caught up in decay.

Recession Theatre Co.’s cast is mostly well suited for their roles. Aylam Orian shines in the role of Astrov. His complex nature and depth suit Chekhov well. The audience often laughs as he cuttingly states that life is a misery—and we know he means it. Orian’s performance reminds one that Chekhov intended the play to be a comedy, but is only successful if performed honestly. Kudos also go to Gwenevere Sisco in her earnest, heartfelt portrayal of Sonya. The scenes between Sisco and Orian are the standouts of the evening. Her monologue about not being pretty is sublime. Dorota Krimmel sparkles as the bored, siren-like Yelena. Altschuler owns his part as the aristocratic spoiled Alexander. A good hearty laugh is in store at the end of the play, when he urges everyone else to work harder. Also, a nod must be given to Susanne Traub for adding complexity to the role of Nanny.

The one discordant note is Bob McCartin’s performance of the title role. He seemed to be playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice as apposed to doing a Chekhov play. Where the other performers used their soliloquies as internal monologues to work through a situation (most common in Chekhov), McCartin breaks the fourth wall and shouts angrily at the audience. McCartin seemed to forget that Vanya is a likeable person pushed to an extreme. He should be everyone’s favorite uncle who then snaps, but rather in this performance it is questionable what endears him to others.

The theatergoer who has never seen Vanya should definitely take advantage of this last weekend to see one of Chekhov’s most brilliant works at an affordable price! Recession Theatre Co.’s production (a brisk 2 hrs) will be worth it.

Recession Theatre Co. presents
Anton Chekhov's
Uncle Vanya
May 1-May 10, 2009
The Players Theatre

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 212-352-3101 or visiting

The Players Theatre | 115 MacDougal Street | Manhattan.

1 comment:

Dianna said...

I wish I could have seen it! I kept meaning to, but of course, schedules conflicted. Thank you for the brilliant review to at least keep me up to speed on what I missed.