By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
Picture it: Russia. Late 1880’s. Vanya (Daniel Murphy) and his niece, Sonia (Kathleen Wilkinson), manage and live on an estate in the country owned by Sonia’s father, Serebriakov (Peter Brannigan), a professor who lives in the city with his second – and much younger wife – Yeliena (Allison Beauregard). The professor’s first wife was Vanya’s sister and the daughter of Maryia (Amanda Arcadia) who also lives on the estate. Serebriakov and Yeliena are currently visiting the estate much to everyone’s frustration.
We first meet physician and frequent visitor, Astrov (B.C. Gannon), and Marina the Nanny (Jessica Poje) in the garden of the estate reflecting on life. Astrov decries that “life is stupid”, “life brings you down,” and he “doesn’t love anybody.” Forestry is one of his only passions (although with an attitude like his, perhaps passion is a stretch). He is sad and worried about the scarcity of forests and the rivers drying up. As a longtime resident and helper at the estate, Marina has a more sensible take on life, talking generalities.
Vanya, also prone to depression, decries the fact that Serebriakov is visiting the estate. This visit upsets the everydayness of Vanya’s existence, and brings to the surface all the frustrations and regrets he harbors. He finds his life “meaningless”, “wasted”. “Where’d it go?” (his “woulda-coulda-shoulda” moment).
Serebriakov also has his share of depression, moaning that he is an old man and that he’s constantly in pain. His young wife, Yeliena, is not happy in the country, and she is growing tired of her marriage to a sickly, old man.
Other complications involve Astrov and Vanya who both love Yeliena and sweet, kind Sonia who loves Astrov.
Tensions increase when Serebriakov announces that he is going to sell the estate and use the money to maintain his current life style elsewhere. Vanya’s reaction is blistering.
Loves declared, angers vetted, frictions agitated… Does anything get resolved? Is the estate sold? What happens to the occupants? Does everything go back to normal or is life permanently changed for all?
Comedic comments are infrequent, sarcastic and often self-deprecating.
Gannon nails his performance, showing a wide range of emotion from sorrow to potential hopefulness.
Murphy takes Vanya from a world of indifference to expressing his frustrations concerning the estate’s potential sale.
Beauregard is forceful and insightful as the young wife.
Wilkinson portrays Sonia as a gentle soul whose emotions are often evidenced through her facial expressions.
Joan Markert’s costume designs are perfect.
Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse ends its 85-year run in Oakland with its final Conservatory production of “Uncle Vanya,” a play by Anton Chekhov and translated by Elisaveta Fen. Play runs from April 12-15 at the Rauh Theatre, 222 Craft Ave., Pittsburgh PA. 15213. For more information, go here.