“ … this pointed, powerful Uncle Vanya (translated by Curt Columbus) stands on its own, maintaining a fine balance between hilarity and profundity and marking director Kimberly Senior as one of the best interpreters of Chekhov in these parts. Tom Hickey plays Vanya with an acerbic relish that never loses sight of the middle-aged bachelor's anguish, and Michaela Petro's spitfire Sonya may be the most heartbreaking take I've seen on this most heartbreaking of all characters. ”— Chicago Reader
“ "Suffering should be presented as it is expressed in life: not via arms and legs but through tone and expression," Chekhov wrote. His exhortation for the natural depiction of the human condition onstage is stunningly realized in Senior's rather dark production of Columbus's blunt, droll translation. Varying shades of misery, from taut repression to slaphappy bromides, are subtly treated by director and the Strawdog team, now old hands at displaying the comedy of "real life" that Chekhov demanded of the theater. That approach is reinforced by Tom Burch's exquisite set design, inspired by artist Joseph Cornell: The characters' litany of grievances bounces off shadow-box walls, their shelves lined with dried and bottled ephemera of life passed by... Tom Hickey, who attacks with viper-like precision as a gloomy, acerbic Vanya, leads a skillful cast, including Kyle Hamman's wry doctor (and proto-environmentalist) Astrov, Michaela Petro's wild-eyed Sonya, and Shannon Hoag, luminous as the "beautifully idle" Yelena, who locates the darkness beneath her utter boredom. Their messy interactions add up to beautiful Chekhovian chaos and demonstrate that suffering is easier than changing. In Senior's hands, the stagnant life in Uncle Vanya is both recognizable and compelling. ”— Time Out Chicago
Mix Curt Columbus' un-stuffy translations of Chekhov with the delicate direction of Kimberly Senior and the irreverent naturalism of Strawdog's acting ensemble, and you hear people say things like "intensely appealing," "funny" and "smoldering sexual energy" (Chicago Tribune), "unexpectedly emotional" (Time Out), "fabulous" (EDGE Chicago), "perfect" (Chicago Reader), "a pure joy to experience" (Gay Chicago), etc. Frankly, it's all a bit embarrassing, so when we say you CANNOT MISS Senior's production of Uncle Vanya, please understand that we're just trying to help you out.
Vanya thought he could be content living vicariously through his brother-in-law's academic triumphs and managing that brother-in-law's rural estate. But when the professor abruptly retires and forces his excessively young second wife to give up the pleasures of Moscow for a life on the farm, her intoxicating beauty and talent for sitting around all day cause the smooth routine of hard work to erupt with sex, violence, and other inappropriate behaviors.
As Ms. Senior is fond of saying, Chekhov never set out to write a dusty classic. Join us as we bring to life the kind of vibrant, modern play that made him a literary giant.