The Actors’ NET of Bucks County opened its latest production, UNCLE VANYA by Anton Chekhov, on Friday January 28. Any material by Chekhov is difficult to produce, and Actors’ NET is to be commended for not shying away from a tough piece.
As is the case in much Russian theatre, the plotline has many interweaving parts. Uncle Vanya is the overseer of a farm owned by his niece Sonya. He has spent much of his life assisting in the career advancement of his deceased sister’s husband, Professor Serebryakov, only to realize he has wasted his life assisting a fraud. The professor and his much younger wife Yelena have come to the farm, disrupting the lives and routines of everyone there. They are joined by Doctor Astroff, who is called in to attend to the ailing professor, and through his visits he wins the heart of Sonya (Vanya’s niece and the professor’s daughter) but Astroff only has eyes for Yelena. Meanwhile, Vanya’s mother Maria idolizes the professor and chastises Vanya for his change of opinion. (Does anyone else think Chekhov would have made a fortune writing for today’s soap operas?) Add in a couple quick-witted family retainers and there you have it…a recipe for a very quirky, dark comedy.
Director Cheryl Doyle has assembled a skilled cast. DeLarme Landes portrays Astrov with a confidence that borders on arrogance. Alexa Newton’s Sonya is sweet innocence. George Hartpence gives Vanya a light-hearted buoyancy at first, then shows an increasing frustration and darkness. Cat Miller (Yelena) is the woman who has much in her life that she wishes she could change. Mort Paterson (Serebryakov) is pompous and oblivious to the storm his presence has created. They are joined by Susan Blair (Maria), David Bohn (Telyegin) and Elaine Good (Marina.) Extra kudos to assistant director/dramaturg Carol Thompson for a wonderful consistency of style.
Many productions of UNCLE VANYA focus on the darkness of the piece. What I enjoyed about this production is their focus on the humor, even in the midst of the darkness. Chekhov intended this to be a comedy, and director Doyle, cast and crew follow this beautifully. I expect as the run continues, the characters will continue to grow and evolve. For those who want to see a worthy interpretation of a classic piece done far too little, take a trip to Morrisville to see this fine production.
by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Cheryl Doyle
January 28 – February 13, 2011
Actors’ NET of Bucks County
635 N. Delmorr Avenue (Route 32)