BWW Review: Theatre9/12's UNCLE VANYA Just Doesn't Click
Yes, Dear Readers, it's "Uncle Vanya" ... again. Now, don't get confused. I know I just reviewed this a few weeks ago but this is a different production. This is Theatre9/12, those plucky actors who pour over scene work week after week until they come up with a full play they'd like to present, this time it's Annie Baker's adaptation of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya". They're all about the performance and not so much on the frills since there's usually little in the way of sets or elaborate costumes and they perform at the Trinity Church Parish Hall. And while they usually bring in a fantastic piece, this time it felt they focused a bit too much on individual scene work and not so much on connecting with each other as the play felt like so many performances in a vacuum.
Director Charles Waxberg's cast never really manages to connect with each other, rather sounds as though they're all waiting for their next big speech. And when their moment comes, they deliver it well, for the most part, but without the connection of who they're delivering it to or why, they come across as forced. And to make matters worse they often times make the oddest of choices that, I'm assuming are to indicate madness or grief but simply come across as confusion or not paying attention to what's happening with others. A prime example was when Vanya, played by Terry Edward Moore was sitting distraught over some news, when the professor, played by Michael Ramquist, out of the blue says "Vanya, don't leave" and then after a few beats Moore stood up and made a few steps away from him. Um, when was he leaving? It's like they all rehearsed their own plays and then were thrown onto stage together last night.
That was of course the most egregious moment of a lack of connection or listening, but you get the point. Vanya and the professor's young wife Yelena (played by Colleen Carey) are supposed to be in a love triangle along with Doctor Astrov (Tim Gagne) but I never felt any connection between them so when this profession of love came along I kept asking myself, "really?" Gagne does have some moments but seems to be playing the Doctor for laughs and gets more and more broad in his performance as the show progressed making Yelena's attraction to him even more unbelievable. Then there's Sonya (played by Laura Bannister) who's supposed to be harboring her own secret feelings for the Doctor. They were secret alright, right up to the point she told us. Plus, Bannister was the biggest culprit of simply waiting for her next line as her's came off as mini forced speeches and all with the same inflection.
Even something as simple as a need for someone to be making noise so another character can chastise them for it became a confusing production number. At one point Yelena is supposed to admonish Yefim (Michael Robinson), the night watchman, for making noise and disturbing the Professor. So, for the three scenes preceding that one line, they had Robinson slowly walk around behind the audience and occasionally knock on something with his stick. Back and forth he went, slowly, for no seeming reason until we got to, "Is that you making all that noise?" Why? To be honest, trying to figure out what he was doing was more engaging than the scenes.
I've come to expect good things from Theatre9/12 and this was just a misstep. Maybe they didn't have enough rehearsal time together due to the weather or something, but it just wasn't there. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Theatre9/12's production of "Uncle Vanya" a "you're better than this" MEH-. Also, do we really need two "Uncle Vanya" productions running at the same time?
"Uncle Vanya" from Theatre9/12 performs at Trinity Parish Hall through March 10th. All performances are pay what you can. For information or reservations visit them online at www.theatre912.com.