Uncle Vanya OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Al Foote III
  • NY TIMES

  • TM

  • TIME OUT

  • S & C

  • NEW YORK THEATRE REVIEW

Opening Night:
September 21, 2014
Closing:
October 12, 2014

Theater: The Pearl Theater / 555 W 42nd St, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

The arrival of a worldly professor and his bewitching wife have shattered the drowsy peace of Vanya and Sonya’s country estate. In a series of flirtations, disappointments, confessions, and revelations, this motley collection of parochial nobodies demand their moment in the sun—but never seem to know what to do when they get it. Quietly powerful, slyly comic, Uncle Vanya invites us into a world of agony, ecstasy, and absurdity—of passionate outbursts and smothered hopes, and of large dreams crammed into little lives.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Uncle Vanya

    On a Russian Farm, Where Frustration Grows Hal Brooks Directs ‘Uncle Vanya’ at the Pearl Theater

    Laura Collins-Hughes

    September 24, 2014: Chekhov didn’t make it to the People’s Climate March that flowed through Midtown Manhattan on Sunday — being dead does get in the way — but he was with the environmental activists in spirit. In Uncle Vanya, which opens the season at the Pearl Theater Company, this playwright’s 19th-century worries over an ailing earth are startlingly contemporary. “The forests are disappearing one by one, the rivers are polluted, wildlife is becoming extinct, the climate is changing for the worse, every day the planet gets poorer and uglier,” Astrov, the doctor, tells his friends. “It’s a disaster!” Finding immediacy is never a problem in Paul Schmidt’s vibrant, loose-limbed translation, which Hal Brooks, the Pearl’s new artistic director, wisely uses in his production. There’s no groping through layers of musty language to find our connection to Chekhov’s little band of privileged malcontents, stricken with ennui as the Russian Empire sleepwalks toward its end.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Uncle Vanya

    A very traditional-looking production of Anton Chekov's classic has some surprisingly modern undertones.

    Zachary Stewart

    September 21, 2014: In another life, Anton Chekhov would have made a great psychic. His observations of turn-of-the-century Russian society and the class rage boiling quietly under the surface feel spookily prophetic, considering his plays were written just decades before the Bolshevik Revolution. They also feel relevant to 2014. That's clear in The Pearl Theatre Company's revival of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, which has the outward appearance of fin de siècle Russia...until the actors start talking and moving. Director Hal Brooks has created what looks like a very traditional production that is actually unabashedly (sometimes unnecessarily) modern. Vanya (Chris Mixon) is the over-the-hill manager of a Russian country estate. Alongside his niece, Sonya (Michelle Beck), he toils at his desk to scrape out a 2 percent annual return, which mostly goes to support the leisurely city lifestyle of his late sister's husband (Sonya's father), the retired academic Alexander Serebriakov (Dominic Cuskern). When Serebriakov settles for an extended stay at the estate, Vanya's jealousy grows, especially in light of his infatuation with the professor's second, much younger wife, Yelena (Rachel Botchan). Yelena has also caught the eye of Astrov (Bradford Cover), a frustrated country doctor with a passion for forestry. Meanwhile, Sonya is smitten by Astrov. Can such a complicated web of lust and resentment sustain itself on a poor country estate with a two-percent return? (No.)

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF Uncle Vanya

    Ill-matched agemates tussle in this midlife morass

    Sandy MacDonald

    September 23, 2014: There’s a reason repertory companies are going the way of the dodo, and it’s not strictly budgetary: one maladaptive trait is the tendency to shoehorn stalwarts into unsuitable roles. In the Pearl Theatre Company's rendering of this beloved chef d’oeuvre, Bradford Cover is optimally cast as Dr. Astrov, the dashing country physician/proto-ecologist who himself is fast going to seed. Although Chris Mixon overdoes the title character’s lovelorn sad-sack shtick, his Vanya is on the feisty side of morose, ensuring lively interactions. But as Sonya, Vanya’s niece and helpmeet, newcomer Michelle Beck is overly mild and distinctly not “plain.”

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  • STAGE AND CINEMA REVIEW OF Uncle Vanya

    A MERRY APPROACH TO A MELANCHOLY CLASSIC

    Paulanne Simmons

    September 24, 2014: These days when directors revive a classic, they have to decide whether their approach will be either to modernize the play or mount it as a period piece, true to the spirit of the times in which it was created. Sometimes, as in the case of the The Pearl’s Uncle Vanya, the director chooses to do a little of both. Thus Hal Brooks (The Pearl’s new artistic director) has opted for Jason Simms’ gentle and elegant interior—appropriate for a tasteful landowner—set against a romantic countryside backdrop; and Barbara A. Bell’s costumes evoke the period in which the play was written: 1897. But he uses a translation by the Russian-language scholar Paul Schmidt, who has been lauded for making Chekhov accessible to American audiences. And he encourages a broad style of acting that sometimes makes the play seem more like a sit-com than a Russian classic.

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  • NEW YORK THEATRE REVIEW REVIEW OF Uncle Vanya

    Geese and Unhappiness

    Ryan Hudak

    September 22, 2014: Halfway through the Pearl Theatre Company's new production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, the nanny of this unhappy Russian family says that they resemble a flock of geese. While at first it seems like a simple comment, it soon becomes the truth. The inhabitants of this estate fly around each other with bursts of passion and foolishness, becoming more animal than human. When guns have been fired, goodbyes have been had, and coaches carry lovers away from each other, Chekhov's characters are left to examine how quickly their emotions got the better of them. In tackling Uncle Vanya, the Pearl has taken on a tough play that many attempt, but few are able to pull off. Chekhov, on a whole, can be a nightmare for companies. His tone and pace needs to be handled with care or the play starts to fall apart. While the company largely pulls off a handsome production, something is off. The fact that the translation feels too modern and some of the cast can't get a handle on their roles are the two main reasons. What results is a production that has moments of emotional weight, but doesn't stick its landing.

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