Sunday, September 21, 2014

Uncle Vanya

I have this theory about plays and movies. If the main character or another character learns something and grows, the piece can last hours. But if the characters remain stuck and learn nothing, the show can't be over two hours. Ninety minutes is ideal. Now, I understand that Uncle Vanya is a brilliant classic, but OMG the characters in it are annoying. No one learns a damn thing, and it's over two hours.

Does anyone ever learn anything in a Chekhov play? Chekhov was the patron saint of stuck people, people who can't read the writing on the wall, people who ignore good advice, people who sink into quicksand without even waving their arms and crying, "Help!" On one hand, I admire the heck out of Chekhov. His compassion and subtlety are impressive, and he juggles heartbreak and humor admirably. But if I never see another Chekhov play in my life, I will not mind at all.

The current production of Uncle Vanya at the Pearl is largely solid and well-acted. The scenery and costumes are effective. Hal Brooks' direction is good. The show's largest asset is Chris Mixon's performance as Vanya. Most Vanyas I've seen are pathetically kidding themselves during their "I coulda been a contender" speeches. They blame other people and the universe for making them the failures that they would have been anyway. In contrast, Mixon's Vanya has an undeniable spark and might really have accomplished something. His life is still his own fault and not anybody else's, but there is an extra level of meaning in his Vanya. Nevertheless, he still doesn't learn a damned thing.

(5th row center, press ticket)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would argue about no one changes in Uncle Vanya. Sonya changes. Her eyes are open, she sends the Dr. away and accepts her life. She tries to get Vanya to accept his too. She's no longer a child and this is her life. She is the owner of the estate, there's nothing much else she can do in this time period to change it. Of course I'm biased, I've played her and I love her.....and I didn't know there was a new production, so now I'm gonna have to see it!