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Reviewed by James Karas
Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya was seen in September 2022 at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto. Mirvish has wisely remounted the production at its CAA Theatre. It is a redoubtable staging as directed by Chris Abraham based on a version of the play by Liisa Repo-Martell.
The play is subtitled Scenes From Country Life and is set on an estate somewhere in the vastness of Russia at the end of the 19th century. Chekhov’s directions are that it takes place in a garden, the dining room, the drawing room and a bedroom/office of the mansion but Abraham has chosen a large, musty room for all the action. It is in that large room that we meet all the characters and consequently the world that Chekhov portrays for us.
Uncle Vanya (Tom Rooney) manages the large estate with Sonya (bahia watson) for the benefit of Professor Serebryakov. Vanya looks rumpled, unsteady, erratic and perhaps a man who is not all there. He steals some morphine from Dr. Astrov with the intent of committing suicide, one assumes, and he is shot at unsuccessfully. He is depressed and a man lost in the wilderness who falls in love or is infatuated with Yelena, Serebryakov’e wife. Rooney gives a superb performance capturing the complexities of Vanya’s character.
Sonya is the Professor’s daughter from his previous marriage to Vanya’s sister and seems like a lost soul. She is of marriageable age but the only possible target of her love is Dr, Astrov who rejects her. She is a hard worker and finds solace and perhaps a solution to her lonely life in work. Excellent acting by watson.
Dr. Astrov (Ali Kazmi) is an interesting character who cares about the climate but has lost his ambition and in the end is indifferent to everything. Kazmi speaks with a distinguished accent and is a man who cared about his patients and the world. He falls in love with Yelena and is rejected by her and there seems to be little hope for him in the wilderness of Russia.
Ilia Telegin (Anand Rajaram) is an impoverished, comic and pathetic former landowner who mooches on the estate. With his long hair and beard, and his bedraggled clothes, he looks almost unhinged and pitiful. Rajaram may perhaps overdo it but perhaps he gives us exactly what Telegin deserves.
The arrival of Professor Serebryakov (Eric Peterson) with his beautiful young wife Yelena (Shannon Taylor) throws the pathetic country life in the mansion into an uproar when he announces that he wants to sell the state and take the money so he can live better. The professor is described as a useless man and an academic who writes books about nothing that nobody reads. Even more important is the presence of his beautiful, young and aristocratic-looking wife. Her sheer presence lightens the scene and as mentioned, Astrov and Vanya fall in love with her. She is a cultured woman form St. Petersburg who studied music at the conservatory but her effect on “the country life” is passing as she remains faithful to the nonentity that she is married to. Shannon Taylor fits the role perfectly.
As usual, Chris Abraham deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the well-modulated reading of a difficult play. Julie Fox and Joshua Quinlan get kudos for Set and Props co-designers.
A play and a production worth seeing as often as possible.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov in an adaptation by Lisa Repo-Martell continues until February 25, 2024, at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St, Toronto ON, M4Y 1Z9

February 16, 2024
Cultural - Κριτική Καλών Τεχνών

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