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re: Conor McPherson's adaptation of Uncle Vanya on PBS Great Performances aired last night
Last Edit: singleticket 01:05 pm EDT 05/08/21
Posted by: singleticket 12:55 pm EDT 05/08/21
In reply to: Conor McPherson's adaptation of Uncle Vanya on PBS Great Performances aired last night - Ann 09:35 am EDT 05/08/21

I liked it quite a bit.

It is definitely an adaptation where one writer is fitting his world into the world of Chekhov but I thought it fit smoothy. There's something to be said for this kind of adaptation that is a kind of collaboration rather than an attempt to find the purist interpretation of Chekhov. On the other hand, I've seen Chekhov adapations that were so thoughtless in the liberties they took as to make the whole thing fall apart.

I loved the doctor, Astrov, raiding his pharmaceutical cache and swigging morphine. The medicine bottles laid out on the table are in the text but I've never seen the character self-medicating with them. Perhaps that's happened in other productions but it seemed perfectly right here.

Well cast and good performances. One or two moments I thought could have been turned down a bit in emotional intensity. Those moments felt more like a stage performance than a performance of character. I think that might be part of the production's outlook but I'm always a little bit on the defensive in Chekhov productions for excesses of the acting olympics kind.

I particularly loved the set design by Rae Smith who also designed the costumes, I believe. Smith made clever, eerie use of the actual back wall of the theater stage as well as the stage doors subtly blending with elements of the Russian country house. The costumes were also beautifully done; another blend of turn of the century with contemporary and vintage 20th century elements. None of this is easy to do effectively and I've seen it fail a number of times. But here the key to success was not so much a blending as a layering of time and theatricality with many layers peering through each other. It's a remarkable effect and it worked beautifully.
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