Crow’s Theatre opened their 2022/23 season with a bang with Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya on September 10, 2022. This new adaptation by Liisa Repo-Martell opens in late 19th century Russia; Vanya and his niece, Sonya, live and work the land on their country estate. Vanya’s brother-in-law, Alexandre, a professor, comes to visit. He brings with him his second and much younger wife, Yelena. Alexandre and his wife have been living off the proceeds of the estate to support their urban lifestyle. Yelena is not happy though. She made an error in marrying a man so old. Alexandre is not happy. He feels embittered about his failed career and the onset of rheumatism. Vanya is also not happy: he’s in love with Yelena and wishes he had married her 10 years ago. Everyone is unhappy! Life has just not worked out the way they wanted!
Compounding the family unhappiness, Vanya’s friend, Astrov, a doctor, is unfulfilled in his profession. Energy he previously devoted to his career is redirected towards his passionate concern about the ruin of the forests: “We forget that we need the natural world!” he proclaims. Astrov embodies a forward thinking man whose concern about deforestation is remarkable in that it is one of the early references to ecological issues in literature, clearly demonstrating Chekhov’s futuristic ideas.
Fortunately, the play is punctuated by some truly funny scenes including a drunken music-and-dance sequence by Alexandre, Vanya and Telegin (Anand Rajarim).
Julie Fox’s and Josh Quinlan’s realistic set and props include a fireplace, chaise lounge, wall sconces, a gramophone, and barnwood floors. A grandfather clock and harvest table provide the finishing touches to recreate a typical Russian turn-of-the century home.
Kimberly Purtell’s hazy lighting emphasizes the disillusionment the characters are experiencing. Ming Wong’s elegant costumes clearly define the characters’ functions and personalities.
Carolyn Fe as nurse/nanny Marina is absolutely delightful, right down to her shuffling gait. Fe infuses her role with warmth and humour, which makes it easy to see why the depressed members in this family need her.
Eric Peterson (Corner Gas, Street Legal) injects his trademark feistiness into Alexandre. You certainly can’t nod off while he’s on stage as his projection and inflexion boom with chandelier-shaking energy and exuberance. Bahia Watson as Sonya is outstanding as she captures both the wide-eyed innocence and giddiness of an infatuated young woman and the absolute devastation of love’s unrequited arrow. Tom Rooney as the titular character combines a complex blend of humour and awkwardness and is poignantly expressive in a monologue about his second wife.
Ali Kazmi is perfectly cast as the fiery Astrov. Kazmi brings a fierce dynamism to the role of the passionate, eco-conscious doctor.
The play got off to a late start and the first half dragged on a bit. Hopefully, there will be some tweaks to the first half to quicken up the pace. After the intermission, the timing was much better.
The cast work hard to create a memorable and meaningful experience and they succeed. Go and see this one. Don’t regret missing this gem!
Uncle Vanya at Crow’s Theatre runs until October 2, 2022. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Box Office.
Crow’s Theatre is located at 345 Carlaw Avenue, 647-341-7390.
Are you planning to go for dinner before the show? You might want to stop by Gare De L’Est located right beside the theatre. Other restaurant options in the Leslieville neighbourhood include Baldini Restaurant and Eastside Social.