Uncle Vanya

by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Mike Russo

25 June – 11 July 2010

Based on Chekhov’s own earlier work The Wood DemonUncle Vanya focuses on a professor and his much younger second wife visiting the rural homestead which provides them with their comfortable living. While Uncle Vanya has a rather uncertain and unhappy ending when it comes to the future of the characters, The Wood Demon was more directly positive. Uncle Vanya is considered by critics to be a reworking of The Wood Demon inspired by Chekhov’s visit to a prison island and witnessing life there.

In Uncle Vanya, Vanya is the brother of the professor’s late first wife and also the estate manager. He and the local doctor both fall hard for the professor’s wife, Yelena. Sonya, the professor’s daughter from his first marriage, is also helping to run the estate, and seeing her stepmother’s beauty and charm reminds her how unattractive she herself is and how unrequited her adoration for the doctor is, especially with Yelena on the scene.

The professor shows little affection for his family (brother-in-law, daughter, and mother) who have been running the estate; he instead announces plans to sell it off and move with Yelena to Finland because he cannot afford his lifestyle in Russia any longer. Tensions overflow and, in a fit of rage, Vanya attempts to shoot his brother-in-law, but fails. Later, Sonya and her grandmother discover Vanya has stolen morphine from the doctor and is suicidal, but they make him return the drugs and his plan is foiled.

The professor and Yelena are leaving the estate and all will continue as it has for years, ultimately. The play closes with the estate-living family going about their tasks, and Vanya complaining about how they must work so hard to support others and how little they have and how joyless life is for them. Sonya reminds him that they will rest when they die and receive rewards in heaven.