A drama by Anton Chekhov
Adapted by David Mamet from a translation by Vlada Chernomirdik
Directed by Bob Belfance
Weathervane Playhouse ushers in 2014 with a new version of an old classic as the Playhouse presents Uncle Vanya, adapted by the celebrated American playwright David Mamet.
Working from a literal translation from Russian to English, Anton Chekhov’s 19th century Russian masterpiece retains its powerful themes and setting — but in Mamet’s creative hands the classic drama’s language, characters and situations are enlarged and enlivened for a modern audience.
Set on the crumbling estate of a retired professor and his beautiful young wife, Uncle Vanya presents a tangled web of desire that consumes various friends and family members who have sought refuge there.
The place is Russia and the year is 1899. A retired professor named Serebryakov has returned to his country estate with his beautiful young wife, Yelena. The estate originally belonged to his first wife, who is now deceased. The married couple has returned to the estate because the professor’s health has begun to decline. Upon their return, the professor reconnects with the extended family members who manage his estate: Mariya, the mother of his first wife; Sonya, his daughter by his first marriage; and Vanya, who is Mariya’s son.
County doctor Astrov, whose arrival to the estate marks the beginning of the play, is brought in to help cure the ailing professor. His presence causes a stir in the household, for he is ardently loved by the innocent Sonya.
When night falls at the estate, we get a true bearing of the acrimonious relationship between Vanya, who has been caretaker of the estate for 25 years, and the sickly Serebryakov. Serebryakov is being incredibly demanding in the wake of his illness, causing everyone in the household to view him with annoyance and despair.
Chekhov was quoted as saying, “Beauty brings a sense of loss. The possibility of happiness is thus too far removed. Life can give you a little, but beauty has a way of disturbing you because you can’t have it all.” It is difficult to define this kind of unhappiness, says Weathervane guest director Bob Belfance, but Chekhov explores it in his plays and most definitely in Uncle Vanya. "He has no theory of life to explain ala his contemporaries Henrik Ibsen or August Strindberg," says Belfance, " but he is perhaps the greatest author in the understanding of human beings. He understands that humans live their lives inwardly."
Background on the Play and this Adaptation
This legendary and influential Russian play debuted at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899 and has continued to impact the theater world ever since, influencing such well known American playwrights as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. The equally influential American playwright David Mamet was commissioned to create an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya
in 1988 after his successful recreation of Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard
. Mamet's adaptation of Uncle Vanya
opened in April 1988 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. Mamet has cited Chekhov as one of the major influences on his theatrical ideas, and he viewed his work in Chekhovian adaptation as “the practical approach to grasping Chekhov’s technique,” according to author Ira Bruce Nadel (in his book, David Mamet: a Life in the Theatre
). Mamet’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya
also made it to the silver screen: It was the basis for his screenplay for the film Vanya on 42nd Street
, directed by Louis Malle and released in 1994.
DALE M. FRANKS
Alexandr Vladimirovich Serebyakov
Mariya Vasilyevna Voynitzkaya
Ivan Petrovich Voynitzky
Mikhail Lvovich Astrov
Ilya Ilyich Telegin
THE CREATIVE TEAM
JUSTYN TYLER JAYMES
ALAN SCOTT FERRALL
Sound Designer, Scenic Designer and Technical Director
Asasistant Technical Director