Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet’s Uncle Vanya is a sparkling restoration of a masterpiece of the modern stage, marked by Mamet’s finely tuned ear for dialogue and memorable poetic imagery.
In "Uncle Vanya," a retired professor and his beautiful young wife return to the country estate left by his deceased first wife to find themselves overwhelmed by the stagnant inevitability of the rituals of their life and class, and mercilessly taxed by the encroachment of age at the expense of youth. All of the play’s characters are plunged into that precarious state where, in Beckett’s words, the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being.”
So, what happens in Uncle Vanya? Not much; just life, played out over four acts. There are rich people, and there are people who work for the rich people, whom the rich people don't really care about. There is a gun fired in anger and desperation, but there aren't any bodies to carry off stage. There are men making fools of themselves over women. There are those who accept their fates and wait for their rewards in heaven, and there are others who don't care one way or another. There is a character whose name is in lights as the title, but he doesn't add up to all that much. Chekhov's play moves so languidly that, without a vibrant cast, an understanding director, and a lively translation, it stands the chance of passing under the radar of the average audience. Columbus's reworking of the script (done for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company) aims at accessibility, replacing the "outdated colloquialisms" and "brittle prose" of earlier translations. And, for the most part, it's OK. It's not revelatory or revolutionary, but it stands as good a chance as any of getting the audience to come back after intermission. Recommended for collections in need of a new copy of this work. Larry Schwartz, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Moorhead Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.