Sunday, August 27, 2017

UNCLE VANYA: VALIANTLY ACCEPTING NEXT YEAR’S AGONY • Rebel And Misfits Productions

There’s a malaise that blankets the Serebryakov family estate, and in Rebel and Misfits Productions’ second installment in its Immersive Theatre Project series, a private residence in Ladue serves as the country home in Anton Chekhov's 19th century classic. This interpretation of Uncle Vanya, adapted by artistic director, Kelly Hummert, retains the tragic weight of the everyday Chekhov's known for, but turns it in on itself, mining a great deal of humor in the process.

Serebryakov (Peter Mayer), a retired professor, and his young second wife, Yelena (Sophia Brown), are upsetting the routine of the caretakers and residents of his first wife’s estate after they decide to live there. Sonya (Francesca Ferrari), Serebryakov’s daughter from his first marriage, and his late wife’s brother, Vanya (Andrew Michael Neiman), maintain the property. Doctor Astrov (James Butz) is a regular at the house, visiting daily to check in on the aging professor. Other residents include Vanya’s mother, Mrs. Voitensky (Suzanne Greenwald), who seems to favor her son-in-law over her own, Marina (Donna Weinsting), the nanny who’s like part of the family, and Telegin, or “Waffles” (Kent Coffel), a poor neighboring landowner dependent on the family.

(Clockwise) Mrs. Voitensky (Suzanne Greenwald),
Astrov (James Butz), Marina (Donna Weinsting),
Yelena (Sophia Brown), Telegin (Kent Coffel),
Vanya (Andrew Michael Neiman),
Sonya (Francesca Ferrari) and The Professor (Peter Mayer).
Photo credit: Kelly Hummert 
Realized against an enveloping backdrop and bolstered by a compelling group of actors, you’ll play silent (and sometimes not so silent) witness to the characters’ struggle against boredom, as you’re ushered from room to room. Neiman is commanding as a bellyaching Vanya, unhappy with his lot, laying much of the blame for his lost, unproductive years on the professor, a man he used to worship. Astrov is a passionate man -- a lover of beauty who’s distressed over the state of the Russian forests, but he’s also just as adrift as Vanya. Butz wears the role easily, berating those around him but hovering not far above the fray. He also gives a wonderful drunken monologue in the kitchen, where he becomes perfectly annoyed with an unscripted interruption by a dinging refrigerator. Brown gives Yelena a sultry charm with shades of vulnerability, not quite knowing what to do with herself once she realizes she has snared the adoration of both Vanya and Astrov. Her husband, Professor Serebryakov, rules the house with no consideration of how the others are affected, and Mayer plays him with the arrogant bluster of a man who’s trying to keep up appearances. Sonya, suffering from heartache of her own, is largely ignored because of her plain looks, but Ferrari gives her innocence a hint that she’s more capable than most of her family.

Yelena (Sophia Brown)
and The Professor (Peter Mayer).
Photo credit: Kelly Hummert 
In addition to the performances and smart direction, this production does a great job pulling you into the story long before Marina offers you a choice of hot chamomile or iced raspberry tea. Letters from Vanya and Yelena are posted on the company’s Facebook page, and an email from the desk of Mrs. Voitensky is sent once your ticket is purchased, pleasantly looking forward to your visit.

The opportunity to see this well-executed Chekhov play brought uniquely to life shouldn’t be missed. It’s playing until the 3rd at 110 Dielman Road.

Incidentals
• On another note, once you arrive, there’s a convenient valet service to take your car. Unless you drive a stick. Then, you may be directed to park along the street, because the valet guy can’t drive a car with manual transmission. And maybe, the valet guy will inform you near the end of the third act that you have to sneak out to move your car, so you do, resulting in you missing a climactic moment in the play involving a gun. Grrr.


Sonya (Francesca Ferrari)
and Astrov (James Butz).
Photo credit: Kelly Hummert 
UNCLE VANYA: VALIANTLY ACCEPTING NEXT YEAR’S AGONY

Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed and adapted by Kelly Hummert 
through September 3 | tickets: $30 - $45
Performances Thursdays to Sundays, high-tea reception at 7pm, play starts at 8pm

Cast
The Professor: Peter Mayer
Vanya: Andrew Michael Neiman
Astrov: James Butz
Sonya: Francesca Ferrari
Yelena: Sophia Brown
Marina: Donna Weinsting
Mrs. Voitensky: Suzanne Greenwald
Telegin: Kent Coffel

Creative
Stage Manager: Vanessa Hart
Assistant Director: Jordan Woods
Costume Designer: Christina Sittser
Scenic Designer: Kelly Hummert and Jordan Woods
Social Media Director: Aarti Couture

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