Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Uncle Vanya and Run, Mourner, Run

Charlie DelMarcelle, Peter DeLaurier and Sarah Sanford
Photo: Mark Garvin
To some, Anton Chekhov is known as a writer of tragedies—but he always insisted his plays were comedies. Director Kathryn MacMillan's new production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya at the Lantern Theatre Company nicely balances comic and tragic elements. The result, while hardly a laugh riot, is a lively and gripping production that brings welcome dimensions to this classic about choices and regrets.

Mike Poulton's colloquial translation isn't fussy for a moment; it's an accessible version of Chekhov's tale. It's the story of Vanya, a man who has spent twenty-five years as the caretaker for a Russian country estate controlled by his brother-in-law, a pompous professor. Now things have changed: the professor is ill and planning a big change in his life. The professor also has a new young wife who bewitches most of the men in sight. Before the evening is over, hearts will be broken, voices will be raised, and shots will be fired, yet Vanya and his loving niece Sonya vow to find a way to soldier on.

With his unkempt hair and his warm, open manner, Peter DeLaurier brings out the humor in Vanya from the start—but as the play goes on, and his character becomes more pathetic, DeLaurier earns the audience's sympathy. DeLaurier creates a touching portrait of a good man who has stumbled into a situation that's impossible to win. Melissa Lynch adds touches of grace and nobility to the downtrodden Sonya, and Charlie DelMarcelle is satisfyingly cynical as a doctor Sonya longs for. As the professor's new wife, Sarah Sanford is tightly wound, recoiling in shock when the armor of her pride is pierced. As always with this gifted actress, she's fascinating to watch.

There's strong chemistry among all eight actors in the cast, best displayed in a scene in which Vanya's polite façade breaks down and the others have to deal with his rage. It's the highlight of a compelling production in which light moments are mixed with devastating ones, making Vanya's story all the more affecting.

Uncle Vanya runs through November 21, 2010, and is presented by Lantern Theater Company at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets. Ticket prices range from $20 to $36 and may be purchased by calling the Box Office at 215-829-0395, online at or in person at the box office.

This weekend (November 5 —7), in conjunction with their production of Uncle Vanya, Lantern will be presenting The Chekhov Festival commemorating the 150th anniversary of the writer's birth. Offerings will include readings, one-act plays, and a scholars' discussion with special guest panelists. Information is available at

Keith J. Conallen
Photo: Bill Hebert

Flashpoint Theatre's Run, Mourner, Run is only an hour long, but it's packed with more drama than most shows twice its length. Tarell Alvin McCraney's play tackles issues of racial prejudice, anti-gay prejudice, and poverty with startling freshness, and director Matt Pfeiffer's driving production never slows down yet never feels rushed.

We're in a small southern town where Dean, a young gay man, is desperate for cash and desperate for affection. He is corralled by Percy Terrell, the town's leading citizen (and most dangerous racist), into taking part in a blackmail plot. Percy longs for a piece of land that's owned by Raymond Brown, a black undertaker—and Percy knows that the married Raymond has affairs with young men. So Dean is enlisted to seduce Raymond. Naturally, things quickly get complicated.

What makes Run, Mourner, Run so absorbing? Start with the performances. Keith J. Conallen makes you feel the weight of the world on Dean's shoulders, while Gerard Joseph plays Raymond with an intense gaze that is, as the dialogue tells us, "mesmerizing." Brian McCann is forceful as Percy but never turns the character into a cartoon villain. And Aimé Kelly has a poignant turn as Raymond's unsuspecting wife.

Thom Weaver's finely detailed set and Christopher Colucci's rich and varied sound design establish the southern setting perfectly. But it's playwright McCraney's beautifully poetic and evocative language that places us firmly in Dean's world. McCraney's play is based on a short story by Randall Kenan, and McCraney merges the language of the printed page with the language of the stage. Thus we get dialogue that merges words spoken by the characters with the words of an unseen narrator ("No, he smirked" says one character). It's a fascinating way to tell a story, but the playwright isn't alone; Flashpoint's director, actors, and technical crew combine to turn Run, Mourner, Run into a terrific example of storytelling.

Run, Mourner, Run runs through November 20, 2010, and is presented by Flashpoint Theatre Company at Second Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street. Ticket prices range from $5 to $20 and may be purchased by calling 215-665-9720, online at or in person at the box office.

-- Tim Dunleavy

Privacy Policy