One of Anton Chekhov’s most respected plays – UNCLE VANYA – is now performing at the Pasadena Playhouse, directed by Michael Michetti. The play is a new translation of the Russian text by Richard Nelson, Richard Pevear, and Larissa Volokhonsky. 

UNCLE VANYA does not have a happy ending, and yet, it’s not a story without humor. It’s, in fact, a perfect example of why Chekhov is considered a master at combining comedy and tragedy. 

At the Playhouse, even the subdued stage announces that you are about to see characters disenchanted with the lives they live, chronically unlucky in love, and mostly devoid of hope. Vanya’s family lives in the countryside, isolated, with nothing much to do other than hard work. Most of what they earn goes to Professor Serebryakov (played by Brian George, whom you may recognize from Seinfeld). The professor has been hailed as a great mind, until he falls off his pedestal, that is. Vanya, most excellently played by Hugo Armstrong, resents him for his money, his undeserved reputation, and his young wife, Elena (Chelsea Yakura-Kurtz). Vanya loves her, although she doesn’t return the feeling. Instead, she stays in a loveless marriage to the professor and is stepmother to Sonya (Sabina Zúñiga Varela), who is desperately in love with Astrov (Brandon Mendez Homer), the doctor that doesn’t care about her at all. 

In between all the dysfunction, there’s a mirror held up so that you, in the audience, can examine your life. There are also glimpses of the brilliant author, who, like his characters, grew up isolated in the countryside and, as a doctor, used his trade to support his real love – writing.

Theater that makes you think, not only as you step out of the Playhouse, but for several days after, is the best type of experience. Chekhov is considered one of the best writers in the world, and not by accident. You will feel lucky after you see this play, and if not, you’ll want to do something about it.

UNCLE VANYA performs Thursday to Sunday through June 26, 2022. Tickets range $34 to $101, available here.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena CA 91101.

Covid-19 protocols are in place, requiring proof of vaccination and masks.

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