Crow’s Theatre is opening their 2022/23 season with a magnificent production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. With a new adaptation by Liisa Repo-Martell and directed by Crow’s Artistic Director Chris Abraham, this dynamic duo has created a theatrical experience unlike anything I’ve seen at Crow’s thus far. Performed in the round by some of the greatest actors in the country, Uncle Vanya is a moving, thoughtful, yet funny piece of theatre that you simply have to see.
The design of Uncle Vanya envelops the audience into the world of the play immediately as they walk in the door; we’re invited to be flies on the wall of the main room in this deteriorating mansion to watch the action unfold. The mulch and peat at the edges of the wood floor combined with the earth-tones of the set reinforce the eco-conscious message within the play. I also really loved the little living areas in the corners of the room, with the piano or the sofa, which could still be seen through the beautiful window panes; it truly gave the production a solid foundation for the actors to play on.
The cast of Uncle Vanya is a shining example of the incredible talent we are fortunate to witness on stage here in Toronto. Helmed by the incomparable Tom Rooney as Vanya, my already high expectations for this cast were easily surpassed. These rich characters were brought to life in such a way that we could immediately recognize who they were and feel deeply for them as they discussed their woes. Entertainment legend Eric Peterson plays the eccentric Alexandre with such fire and passion that you delight to loathe him like Vanya does. Bahia Watson’s Sonya is the emotional centre of the play and she breathes such optimism and kindness into the character. Ali Kazmi’s Doctor Astrov is the exact kind of optimist that was needed then and we still need now, he played him so beautifully; I know he will have made his father proud. Shannon Taylor plays Yelena, the so-called siren of the estate, and you can’t help but feel for her and how trapped she is; Taylor plays her with such elegance and affection. Anand Rajaram (whose character seems to get worse in health the longer the doctor stays), Carolyn Fe (who’s really just trying to keep the house functioning) and dtaborah johnson (who fawns over Alexandre at every occasion) round out this incredible cast and create such delightful, quirky members of the household. These actors are all incredible in their own right, that to see them all on stage together is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
While Chekov is known for plays of a more melancholy disposition, Uncle Vanya is actually quite funny; accentuated by Rooney’s droll delivery of his quips and the sudden fits of Peterson’s professor. However, there are two moments where the characters are truly happy: when Vanya, Telegin (or waffles) and Astrov are drunk in the middle of the night and when Sonya and Yelena become friends. These moments of true connection with other people gives us a glimpse of potentially happy lives for the characters if they didn’t feel the need to isolate themselves from one another; that need for connection unites us all. I personally loved the moments where there would be several characters on stage all getting into various arguments at once, yelling over one another but it was very difficult to distinguish who was yelling about what! You could totally understand how poor Vanya felt like he was going crazy in that household and poor Sonya trying to keep the peace certainly had her work cut out for her.
I cannot recommend Uncle Vanya enough; truly it was a spectacular evening of theatre. The cast is extraordinary, the design is stunning, and the story is poignant. You simply must go and experience it for your yourself. For more information and tickets, visit: Uncle Vanya – Crow’s Theatre (crowstheatre.com)
(l t r) Anand Rajaram as Telegin, Eric Peterson as Alexandre, Bahia Watson as Sonya,Tom Rooney as Vanya, dtaborah johnson as Maria, Shannon Taylor as Yelena
Photo by Dahlia Katz