Previews begin Sept. 28 in Los Angeles for the Geffen Playhouse production of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Adapted by Vanessa Burnham, Vanya opens Oct. 8 and runs through Oct. 31.
Geffen's Vanya celebrates the 100th anniversary of Chekhov's masterpiece as well as the fourth season for the L.A. Theatre, which is part of shaky town's burgeoning theatre scene. Vanya opened almost 100 years ago to the day at the Moscow Art Theatre.
As reported earlier, Vanya will feature Robert Foxworth as Vanya, Peter Donat as Serebryakov, Christina Haag as Yelena, and Megan Follows as Sonya. Director Michael Langham will helm the show and Helen Burns will co-direct.
Set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, Vanya is the story of a retired professor-turned-gentleman-farmer and his niece, Sonya, whose lives are thrown into disarray by the arrival of Vanya’s brother in-law and his beautiful second wife, Yelena. Uncle Vanya opened at the Moscow Art Theater on Oct. 26, 1899.
“Uncle Vanya 's passionate argument about the certainty of a changing world and the importance of hope and love, cannot be more timely as we end the 20th Century,” said Geffen producing director Gilbert Cates. Later this season, Geffen will present the Tony nominated musical, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues. In January, the Geffen welcomes Kathleen Chalfant back to Los Angeles for the first time since Angels in America. Chalfant will reprise her triumphant performance in Wit, the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. Next spring, Geffen presents Jon Robin Baitz' incisively funny take on Hollywood, Mizlansky/Zilinsky, directed by Nicholas Martin. A fifth and final play will be announced at a later date.
Co-directors Langham and Burns have been partners on and offstage for more than 40 years. Langham began directing in 1939 as a 20-year old captured lieutenant in a German prisoner of war camp in France. He has directed numerous plays including The Merchant of Venice with Peter O’Toole, Dorothy Tutin and Diana Rigg; A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Judi Dench and Alec McCowen; Much Ado About Nothing with Christopher Plummer and Geraldine McEwan; and Max Frisch’s Andorra on Broadway.
Helen Burns was born in London and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She appeared in productions directed by John Gielgud, Peter Brook and Laurence Olivier, and worked for several years at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. Ms. Burns won the 1994 Olivier Award and Clarence Derwent Award for her performance in the West End production of Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee but has not acted since. She began to direct alongside her husband and they have staged Twelfth Night, A Doll’s House and The Cherry Orchard.
Vanya's cast includes Robert Foxworth (Vanya), who starred last year on Broadway opposite Jane Alexander in Honor and the previous year in the Lincoln Center production of Chekhov’s Ivanov with Kevin Kline. A member of LA’s Matrix Theater, Foxworth has worked at many resident theatre companies, and has appeared in film and television most recently in the series "Lateline" on NBC.
Peter Donat (Serebryakov) and director Langham share a working relationship that spans over forty years and includes seven seasons at the Stratford Festival in Canada and a 1997 production of Vanya at the Atlantic Theater Festival in Nova Scotia. Mr. Donat has acted at most of the leading regional theatres, has appeared in numerous television series and in such films as "Godfather II," "The China Syndrome," "Tucker" and "Red Corner."
Christina Haag (Yelena) was last seen on the LA stage in the Pasadena Playhouse production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, directed by Sheldon Epps. She appeared at the Old Globe Theatre as Desdemona in Othello, the New York premiere of Arthur Miller’s Elegy for a Lady and as Hanna Jarvis in Stoppard’s Arcadia at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
Megan Follows (Sonya) is well known to television audiences for her starring roles in the Anne of Green Gables movies that still air on cable stations. As a stage actress, she has performed leading roles in Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Doll’s House and the role of Sonya in Michael Langham’s production of Vanya at the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Nova Scotia that also featured Peter Donat and Stephen Pelinski (Astrov). At the Guthrie Theater, Mr. Pelinski is a company actor who has appeared in more than 25 major productions.
Fred Applegate (Pockles) was seen recently on Broadway as Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music and in the Los Angeles production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Anne Gee Byrd (Marya) is a member of the Anteus Theatre Company and was recently seen in Pygmalion at South Coast Rep. Gloria Dorson (Marina) starred opposite Judd Hirsch in the LA production of Conversations With My Father and appeared in Present Laughter and Moon Over Buffalo at the Pasadena Playhouse. Michael Rothhaar (Watchman) appeared on Broadway in The Front Page and The Corn Is Green and received an LA Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Ardele at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice.
Uncle Vanya begins Sept. 28 and opens Oct. 8 at 8 PM. The show runs through Oct. 31. Press night is Oct. 7 at 7:30 PM. The Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood. For ticket information please call the Geffen Playhouse Box Office at (310) 208-5454.
-- By Murdoch McBride