Chekhov's tragicomedy, replete with the kinds of characters we have come to know as "Chekhovian," incorporates unrequited loves and a murder plot while exploring the social roles of women and the notion of progress. Curt Columbus's splendid new translation and adaptation underscores the contemporary relevance of this prophetic play.
So, what happens in Uncle Vanya? Not much; just life, played out over four acts. There are rich people, and there are people who work for the rich people, whom the rich people don't really care about. There is a gun fired in anger and desperation, but there aren't any bodies to carry off stage. There are men making fools of themselves over women. There are those who accept their fates and wait for their rewards in heaven, and there are others who don't care one way or another. There is a character whose name is in lights as the title, but he doesn't add up to all that much. Chekhov's play moves so languidly that, without a vibrant cast, an understanding director, and a lively translation, it stands the chance of passing under the radar of the average audience. Columbus's reworking of the script (done for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company) aims at accessibility, replacing the "outdated colloquialisms" and "brittle prose" of earlier translations. And, for the most part, it's OK. It's not revelatory or revolutionary, but it stands as good a chance as any of getting the audience to come back after intermission. Recommended for collections in need of a new copy of this work. Larry Schwartz, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Moorhead Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Annie Baker’s plays include The Flick (The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Obie Award), The Aliens (Obie Award), Circle Mirror Transformation (Obie Award) and Body Awareness. Her work has been produced at more than a hundred theaters in the U.S. and in more than a dozen countries internationally. Recent honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Steinberg Playwright Award and New York Drama Critics Circle Award. She is a resident playwright at the Signature Theatre.