'Uncle Vanya' at St. Louis Actors’ Studio is one long dull note
- Written by Joanne Fistere
St. Louis Actors’ Studio opened Neil LaBute’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” February 17th at the Gaslight Theater. It is the story of the visit of an elderly professor and his glamorous, much younger second wife, Yelena, to the rural estate that supports their urban lifestyle. Two friends—Vanya, brother of the professor's late first wife, who has long managed the estate, and Astrov, the local doctor—both fall under Yelena's spell, while bemoaning the ennui of their provincial existence. Sonya, the professor's daughter by his first wife, who has worked with Vanya to keep the estate going, suffers from her unrequited feelings for Astrov. Matters are brought to a crisis when the professor announces his intention to sell the estate, Vanya and Sonya's home, with a view to investing the proceeds to achieve a higher income for himself and his wife.
There have been countless productions of “Uncle Vanya” since the first production by the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899. Some productions have been masterpieces, others have not. Sadly, the production I saw at the Gaslight falls into the latter category. Every member of the cast of eight found a single emotional note and played that one note throughout the show. While this may have been a directorial choice that worked for the first scene or two it got very stale for the almost three hour run time of the play. Additionally, I never found myself rooting for anyone, caring about anyone, or believing anyone, each of which would be the death knell for a drama, particularly for a Chekhovian epic such is “Uncle Vanya”. Suffice it to say I was disappointed with this production and I know St. Louis Actors’ Studio can do better.
Patrick Huber works magic with the small space and creates a beautiful set including a tree growing in the middle which is actually the most interesting character in the play. Costumes designed by Teresa Doggett were lovely though a little more attention to detail is warranted in such a small space and removal of modern-day labels would be nice.
“Uncle Vanya” runs through March 5th at The Gaslight Theater at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. For tickets and information go to www.stlas.org.