BWW Review: The Seagull Project's Dark and Moody UNCLE VANYA
OK, so putting up a dark and moody production of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" may sound redundant but remember, this is The Seagull Project. They've spent the last eight years killing it with all things Chekhov and now with the completion of the main plays, the dark and moody tone isn't so much the story but the way it's presented that thrilled.
But let's go through a family primer first. Serebryakov (Mark Jenkins), the aging professor and his much younger wife Yelena (Alexandra Tavares), have returned to the estate of the professor's first wife, and the source of their income, to stay. This throws many of the people who have called the estate home into chaos. Maria (Amy Fleetwood), the mother of Serebryakov's first wife is thrilled to have the great man come to stay. Sonya (Sunam Ellis), his daughter, is happy to see her father but has been managing the estate just fine with her Uncle Vanya (Peter Crook), brother to the late wife, who's not at all happy that the lord has come home to roost. To make matters worse, Vanya is infatuated with the beautiful Yelena as is Astrov (Sylvester Foday Kamara), a doctor who frequents the estate to care for the professor. And Sonya, harbors secret feelings for the doctor but can't come to tell him as she believes herself to be plain. And if this didn't make life miserable enough, Serebryakov has an announcement that will set off this powder keg.
Director John Langs has once again assembled an amazing cast and keeps the pacing clipping along but it's Crook who's the driving force behind it all, especially considering he never leaves stage. Even when the character of Vanya has gone from the scene, the embodiment of him stays like an ethereal fly on the wall as if he's an omnipresent fixture of the house and not blessed but cursed to see all that happens when he's out of the room, making him more and more bleak. Plus, Langs has beautifully taken some of the longer and more introspective monologues and turned them into inner thoughts with a simple freeze in the action and light shift which is stunningly effective, largely thanks to Robert J. Aguilar's fantastic lighting design.
But as good as Crook is, he never steals focus even in those fly-on-the-wall moments keeping the tightness of the ensemble intact. Tavares is, as always, a force of nature to be reckoned with, sweeping onto stage and owning every inch of it and plays off Crook beautifully. Kamara makes for a wonderful third wheel to this already untenable relationship and Ellis' desire for him is heartbreaking. And I must mention the glory that is Rob Burgess in a smaller role as Waffles, the Deputy of the estate proving that even small roles can have a huge impact on a show as he keeps the heart and light of the world alive.
Once again, The Seagull Project has hit it out of the park and shown what professionals who put in the work can do. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give The Seagull Project's production of "Uncle Vanya" a "They did it again?!?" YAY. I, for one, can't wait to see what they have in store for us next now that they've finished the plays.
"Uncle Vanya" from The Seagull Project performs at ACT through February 17th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.