Theatregoers are flies on the wall of the Russian country home of CSC's Uncle Vanya, which opened Feb. 12. With a set lit by what seems to be moonlight, candles and oil lamps, the new production allows the audience to sit in the shadows, eavesdropping on the sad and suffocating Chekhov characters who aren't at home even when they're at home. (The set is by Santo Loquasto, the lighting is by Jason Lyons.)
Fans of naturalism who felt too far away from the action — and the characters' tactile intimacy — of Chekhov's recent The Seagull on Broadway or The Cherry Orchard at Brooklyn Academy of Music might consider themselves in a kind of claustrophobic heaven in CSC's 199-seat three-quarter thrust configuration.
The cast includes Tony Award winner Denis O'Hare as middle-aged Vanya, who has run his late sister's estate for many years, in service of his professor/brother-in-law's supposed greatness. The play famously finds Vanya and his worker-bee niece, Sonya (played by Mamie Gummer), questioning their roles in the house since the recent arrival of the now-retired scholar, Srebryakov (played by George Morfogen) and his young (dissatisfied) wife, Yelena (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). Peter Sarsgaard (late of the recent Seagull) plays the unhappy country doctor and environmentalist Astrov, who sees the physical world disappearing, and questions his place in it.
The timeless tale of wasted lives and unfulfilled dreams began previews Off-Broadway Jan. 17. The cast is rounded out by Louis Zorich as servant Waffles, Delphi Harrington as Yelena's grandmother (and Vanya's mother) Maria, and Cyrilla Baer as nanny Marina, with Andrew Garman (The Watchman/understudy) and Amanda Plant (understudy).
Sarsgaard is known for the films "Shattered Glass" and Boys Don't Cry." Gyllenhaal starred in the films "The Dark Knight," "Sherrybaby," "Secretary," "Donnie Darko" and more.
O'Hare, a veteran of Broadway's Take Me Out and Sweet Charity, who last performed at CSC in Yasmina Reza's A Spanish Play, stars as "Vanya, the quintessential superfluous man, who wakes up one morning to discover he has wasted his life in the service of others, in Chekhov's tragicomic masterpiece of dashed dreams, thwarted love and eternal longing," according to CSC.
The play was first performed at the Moscow Art Theater in 1899, directed by Constantine Stanislavsky. CSC is using a translation by Carol Rocamora, who has translated the complete works of Chekhov.
Uncle Vanya features costume design by Suzy Benzinger, sound design by Daniel Baker and Ryan Rumery. Original music is by Rumery. Hair design is by Paul Huntley. Jared T. Carey is production stage manager.
Actor-director Pendleton has directed Uncle Vanya twice before: at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1972 and at the Hartman Theatre in Stamford in 1980; both times featuring sets by Santo Loquasto. The CSC staging is completely new, however. Pendleton has also played Vanya several times: at the Whole Theatre Co. (directed by Olympia Dukakis); at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (directed by Jeff Blechner); at CSC (directed by Maria Irene Fornes); and for Steppenwolf Theatre Company (directed by Sheldon Pantinkin).
Classic Stage Company is located at 136 East 13th Street.
For more information, visit www.classicstage.org.