Monthly Archive for: ‘September, 2018’

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Uncle Vanya

Uncle Vanya

Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Paige Rogers
Translated by Paul Schmidt
Cutting Ball Theater

No doubt many of us are feeling a sense of hopelessness and apathy in our current political climate, so a production of Chekhov’s study of aimlessness is particularly on point. This last production by exiting co-founder and Artistic Director Paige Rogers may be a clarion call to action, more than just a contemplation on mental atrophy in lives without purpose. By illuminating the bleakness of the characters, we can look at ourselves and say “Oh no, not me”.

Astrov (Adam Magill) courts Yelena (Virginia Blanco).

The simple, hardworking country life of estate steward Vanya, his niece Sonya and their staff is thrown into a tizzy with the arrival of aging professor in residence Alexander Serebriakov with his new, beautiful young wife, Yelena. Daily schedules are thrown off kilter, romantic dalliances bubble and explode and everyone kvetches and moans about their pitiful existences. Vanya, excellently played by Pittsburgh-based actor George Saulnier, explodes in vitriol over his ruined life, wasted in service to the estate. Sonya languishes in unrequited love for the weary, dashing Doctor Astrov. The sickly professor is on the outs, wondering if his young wife really loves him and searching for better income possibilities. Yelena is caught between resentment from her step-daughter and the unwanted attentions of Vanya.

Adam Magill makes his Cutting Ball debut in spectacular fashion as Astrov, the local doctor exhausted from the filth and ennui of his provincial existence. He rails about saving the environment and falls for the lovely Yelena. The characters all made their own circumstances and are all in the same boat – miserable.

Astrov (Adam Magill) rails on saving the environment.

Rogers makes us feel that claustrophobic discomfort small staged space. We’re told it’s a large estate, but the atmosphere is cramped and stifling like the summer heat. Scenic Designer Fred Kinney border the set with floor to ceiling shelving upon which the actors climb, presumably to escape their quandaries and rise above their circumstances. Their attempts are fruitless, their fates sealed. Hanging microphones, similar to a fight ring, are grabbed by the actors to amplify their speeches. Alina Bokovikova’s costumes are as plain as the simple people they drape.

Along with Saulnier and Magill, Haley Bertelsen shines as the haplessly plain Sonya and Virginia Blanco is empathetic as the besieged Yelena. A study in passive aggressiveness, Uncle Vanya forces us to examine out own creations and the interactions that make up our realities. If you can see yourself in Chekhov’s uncontended characters, you better wake up, re-examine, and put a new plan into effect.

Uncle Vanya continues through October 21st, 2018 at Cutting Ball Theater, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at or by calling 415.525.1205

Photo credits by Ben Krantz

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