Uncle Vanya

Definition

Theater

  • Anton Chekhov's painful drama of purposeless lives,rewritten from an earlier unsuccessful play called The Wood Demon(1889). Uncle Vanya was first seen in Stanislavsky'sproduction at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899. The first Britishproduction was that mounted by the Stage Society at the Aldwych Theatrein 1914. Olivier played the complex role of Astrov at the Old Vicin 1944 and again for the famous 1963 production at the ChichesterFestival, which had Michael Redgrave in the title role and JoanPlowright as Sonya.

    Professor Serebryakov and his lovely but lethargic wife Yelenaretire to his country estate. This has been managed for many yearsby Vanya, a futile character eaten up with a sense of his own failure.Also in the household is the professor's daughter Sonya, who nursesa hopeless love for the local doctor, Astrov. When Serebryakov suggestsselling the estate, Vanya goes berserk and tries to shoot him. Characteristically,despite firing at point-blank range, he misses. The professor andhis wife leave, and Vanya sinks back into his life of hopeless routine.

    In the words of the critic Desmond McCarthy, the play endswith "that dreariest of all sensations: beginning life againon the flat when, a few hours before, it has run shrieking up thescale of pain till it seemed the very skies might split".

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