Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" is as dark and gloomy as a Russian winter. The stifling set has a black backdrop, with four bare walls on either side and a maze of doors. There are plain chairs, a table, and a piano which emanates original music reminiscent of some of the more gloomy music of Rachmaninoff. The Professor, Vanya's brother-in-law, Sonya's father, has moved in with his second wife, and turned the whole household upside down. He sleeps all day, demands tea at 2 A.M., while he pores over his books and complains about his gout. His wife, Yelena, has Vanya and the Doctor intoxicated by her beauty.
Vanya and Sonya have done all of the work on the estate and sent the money to the Professor to live on. They are affected by the laziness that consumes him and his wife, and do nothing but complain. Vanya is 47 years old and sees that his choices in life were wrong. The Professor, who he adored, is a fraud, and he has no hope of improving his lot. Alan Coates' Doctor has a wonderfully deep, dark, richly resonant voice as he talks about the humid heat, which instantly augments the stifling atmosphere. He pinpoints the Professor who "for 25 years teaches what smart people know and nobody else cares about." He's the first environmentalist I have encountered in the arts. He plants trees for fun. His maps chart his district for 50 years, showing the destruction of forests, ponds, and animal life that inhabited them. He says "People are destroying their habitat and futures. Mosquitos and disease have taken over." He creates an atmosphere as thick and oppressive as a colorless painting by Claude Monet. The Doctor calls "the peasants crude and dirty, while nothing is left free and pure in the intellectuals. You love trees - strange; you don't eat meat - strange." None of these characters are happy.
Director Libby Appel captures all of the frustration, gloom, and oppression in this darkly Russian masterpiece of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" presented in The Angus Bowmer Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It runs through November 1, along with "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "A Touch of the Poet," and The School For Scandal."
Oregon Shakespeare Festival 98
Henry IV Pt.1
of the Poet
Midsummer Night's Dream | School for Scandal | Uncle Vanya | OSF Commentary