Dust with care

Uncle Vanya

By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Richard C. Aven
Westside Repertory Theatre
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by John Attanas

Most people would probably agree that Chekhov's Uncle Vanya is one of the great plays of the modern theatre. It is also one of the hardest plays to produce, for it is a study in subtlety and irony. It is the story of Ivan Petrovich (Vanya), a middle-aged man who has spent 25 years managing an estate in the Russian countryside for Professor Serebryakov, who was married to Vanya's late sister. The professor, now old and riddled with gout, has returned to the estate with his new young wife Yelena, whom Vanya secretly loves. Yelena, however, is attracted to Vanya's worldly friend Astrov, the local doctor, but will not leave the stifling security that her marriage to Serebryakov provides.

Any group taking on Chekhov's major works should be applauded simply for making the attempt, for the pitfalls he presents are many. While Chekhov is one of the most perceptive and touching of playwrights, he was also in no way economical with words. Badly handled, Chekhov can be deadly. Thankfully, the Westside Repertory Theatre avoided most of the traps that Chekhov laid for unsuspecting theatre companies. While the Westside Rep's production could not be called brilliant, it served the play well. Directed by Richard C. Aven, the production never dragged or got too heavy-handed. Especially nice was his staging of the end of Act Two, with Yelena snuffing out the candles that illuminated the stage.

The performers were generally quite good, with Gregory Vaughn Ward standing out as an energetic Astrov. Ray Rosato did equally well as a restrained Vanya. He was most impressive in his scenes with Yelena, as there was a very nice chemistry between himself and Tyler Hayes (who played Yelena). Ms. Hayes, Lyndee Yamshon, and Ray Rue gave good performances as Yelena, Sonya, and Serbryakov, respectively. However, there were some practical problems here. Although Ms. Hayes was quite attractive, she did not have the overwhelming beauty needed to make a thoroughly believable Yelena. In addition, although Sonya is constantly referred to as ``plain,'' Ms. Yamshon looked quite pretty throughout the work, and as a result strained credibility. Regarding Mr. Rue, he seemed too well kept to play an aged, gout-ridden intellectual. Also of note was Peter Ruffett, who was humorous as Waffles, the local whose wife left him the day after they were married.

Although the costumes designed by Carla Gant and the lights designed by Richard Tatum were well-done, the sets designed by Dough DeVita seemed a bit taped together, and took away from the overall feel of the production.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 John Attanas

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