Uncle Vanya’s House Party

John Kuntz as Uncle Vanya, Marissa Rae Roberts at Elena, Photos: Danielle Fauteux Jacques.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekov, Apollinaire Theatre Company, Chelsea Theatre Works, 12/29/11-1/22/12, http://www.apollinairetheatre.com/index.html.  Live gun fire in close proximity (blank gun)

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Chelsea, MA) It’s like being at your family’s holiday party, except for the relief that it’s not your family.  Words fly and passions rise as the audience travels from room to room glancing at the private moments of Vanya’s family.  Youth and beauty contrast with the harsh realities of country living as love and hope are thrown about bouncing from wall to wall.  

John Kuntz plays the world-wearied Vanya who has spent the majority of his life working for the professor’s benefit.  Kuntz allows Vanya to percolate into a ticking time bomb of energy and angst.  Sonya (Erin Eve Butcher) provides a steady, calming influence amongst the irrationality of the house.  Erin Eve Butcher’s innocence and beauty adds a sorrowful resonance as she pines after the doctor, Astrov.

Elena (Marissa Rae Roberts) luxuriates in her own beauty and self-interest.  Roberts brings a bright and beguiling quality that turns the country estate into a slothful, languishing place.  Catching the eye of Vanya and Astrov (Ronald Lacey), she tries to be the faithful wife and sister-in-law.  Ronald Lacey plays the suave, dashing doctor who has no interest in anything other than his work until he meets Elena.  As an environmentalist who is trying to stop deforestation and who loves the country, he misses the “natural” choice of Sonya for a partner.  His wildness and detachment only draw Elena and Sonya closer until he has left emotional debris scattered all around the estate.  The rest of the cast round out the ensemble and make the scene realistic and yet comic.

The characters discuss philosophy and life in a cozy country house designed by Nathan K. Lee.  Danielle Fauteaux Jacques’ vision of the audience moving through the country house as they move through the building works well—particularly in the smaller spaces.  As the audience sits looking at the actors from the side, they can see that the world has not changed as much as they think.  The dialogue–with the assistance of Craig Lucas’ translation–brings a clearly “modern” theme to pre-revolutionary Russia that transcends time to the twenty-first century.  One can see Chekov’s influence on Samuel Beckett when Beckett coined the phrase “you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”  Vanya’s family lives and breathes this phrase while watching beautiful hopes pass by.


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