Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Uncle Vanya, Dec 11, 2013 **

By Anton Chekhov
La Mama Courthouse, Carlton, Dec 11 until Dec 22, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs Dec 12, 2013 and later in print. KH
  Ruth Sancho Huerga  &  Stephanie Osztreich
The ‘slice of life’ naturalism of Anton Chekhov’s late 19th century Russia play, Uncle Vanya, can too easily mutate into turgid soap opera.

Unfortunately, Greg Ulfan’s production falls into this trap, leaving the play uncomfortably slow-moving, the acting amateurish, actors disconnected from the text, characters and relationships unbelievable, and the theatrical experience ultimately unsatisfying.

Uncle Vanya is a snapshot of a family in crisis on their estate in rural Russia; when the lazy, self-indulgent Professor (Scott Gooding) visits with his beautiful, young wife, Yelena (Zoe Stark), everyone fawns on them and the family estate falls into disorder and slothfulness.

The actors start off playing broad angst, move to rough clowning and bad mime, then to shouting and, finally, to overplayed despair.

Much of the casting is inappropriate, with a youthful Stephanie Osztreicher playing the ancient Nanny, and Ruth Sancho Huerga, a capable actor in her native language, being incomprehensible as Sonya with a thick, Spanish accent.

Joseph Sherman lacks nuance as the lovelorn Vanya, playing him as a whining child with a fixed grimace, a distant gaze and no balance of the tragedy and comedy inherent in the character.

Stark lacks the subtlety, grace and elegance of Yelena, playing her on one note, while Gooding works hard to make the Professor entertaining.

However, the strongest performance is from Eric Myles who makes the old duffer, Waffles, the only credible and diverting character, while Chris Bolton’s charming, off-stage, live music should be featured on stage.

There is certainly an attempt to capture the comedy that is embedded in Chekhov’s drama, but it is clumsily wrought and Leslie Simpson, using some overwrought mime, turns the dignified but despairing Dr. Astrov into a ridiculous caricature of a drunk.

The simple set of black boxes is littered with giant Lego pieces that, initially, promised to be a metaphor about the characters’ childishness but, when the actors started chewing and sucking on them as food and drink, it became absurd.

Being a fan of Chekhov, I wanted to like this production, but it left me irritated and sent my overseas guest running from the theatre at interval.

By Kate Herbert

By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Greg Ulfan
Translated by Greg Ulfan and Joseph Sherman
Performed by Scott Gooding, Stephanie Osztreich, Eric Myles, Zoe Stark, Leslie Simpson,
Chris Bolton, Ruth Sancho Huerga and Joseph Sherman.
Lighting design by Shane Grant
Image by David Burrows

No comments:

Post a Comment