House of cards


In the joint Court Theatre–Museum of Contemporary Art production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, playing at the MCA through February 11, the characters chase each other through desperate conversations, cavorting along the set's aisles, stairs, and platforms. Designed by Chicago architect Leigh Breslau, Millennium Park's master planner, the steel and wood structure provides a modern take on the Russian country estate where the 1899 play takes place.

Not that such contemporary construction seems incongruous. The story, about Vanya and his niece, Sonya, whose lives and home become disrupted when Sonya's retired-professor father and his young wife come there to live, contains pathos and humor, unrequited love and lifelong regret, environmentalism and fear of death—hardly old-fashioned themes.

Forgoing lives of their own, Vanya and Sonya have farmed the estate for decades, sending its earnings to the professor. Now Vanya realizes the worshipped professor's success was fleeting, and worse, he, unlike Vanya, enjoyed fame and beautiful women—including his young bride, Yelena. Sonya, meanwhile, loves the young doctor, Astrov, who comes to check on the self-absorbed professor. Yet the doctor, like Vanya, has eyes for Yelena. Directed by Court Artistic Director Charles Newell, the play reaches an explosive climax before the house is restored to its previous state—ignorant bliss.


Photos: Both the doctor, Astrov (Timothy Edward Kane, top), and Vanya (Kevin Gudahl, bottom) flirt with the professor's wife, Yelena (Chaon Cross).

Photos courtesy Court Theatre.

January 26, 2007