Thursday, February 12, 2009

Uncle Vanya

photo: Joan Marcus

Radiant, captivating, and in full command of the stage, Maggie Gyllenhaal makes a vibrant and beguiling Yelena in the current production (at CSC) of this Chekhov classic. Unfortunately, hers is the only performance of the leading four that satisfies, a pity considering the production is judiciously paced (under Austin Pendleton's direction) and - except for a scenic design that makes sightlines problematic from the theatre's side seats - well considered. Denis O'Hare's jangly, excitable take on Vanya isn't invalid, but it finally lacks gravity: we aren't made to deeply feel the character's sense of futility or loss. Peter Sarsgaard's character choices render Astrov overly neurotic and off-putting. I rarely saw more than the machinations of technique in Mamie Gummer's performance as Sonya: she does much to convey the character's anguish - the red eyes, the tears, the catch in the voice - but I didn't believe any of it.

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