Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Randolph brings classic Chekov play to Lynchburg stage

Despite the fact that Anton Chekov ranks as one of the most important playwrights in history, it has been years since a Lynchburg stage showed his work. WildCat Theatre will change that this weekend as Randolph students and faculty perform Chekov’s Uncle Vanya.

The performance will unlock the comedic aspects and humanity of the play, making it accessible to a modern audience. “There are a lot of bad Chekov productions out there, but our actors are doing well,” said director Mace Archer. “The acting will be far more sophisticated than people have seen before.”

Uncle Vanya
by Anton Chekov
Presented by Randolph College
Thoresen Theatre, Randolph College
Nov. 15–19, 7:30 p.m.
Uncle Vanya tells the story of a Russian family and the staff that cares for the family’s rural estate as one family member proposes to sell the property. “It is more or less a familial squabble about what's going to happen to the family estate,” Archer said. “Some want to continue this way of life that they’ve known forever, and others are willing to sell it all off and start afresh.” It represents Russia’s change from a rural society to a more modern society during Chekov’s time.

Internationally-known theatre designer Marina Raytchinova designed the
set for Uncle Vanya and has been helping students build the set this week.
The story also includes interwoven and conflicting love stories. “Everybody in this house is in love with everybody else, but nobody can be with who they want to be with,” Archer said. “The thing that makes it fun is all the interpersonal dynamics in the house.”

The play features a set designed by Bulgarian designer Marina Raytchinova who, before this play, had designed every Chekov play other than Uncle Vanya. Although most Chekov productions have “hyper-realistic” sets depicting the details of Russian architecture, Raytchinova opted for a more simple setting that will allow the audience to focus more on the characters and the story. That will make the play more enjoyable for the audience, Archer said. “The way it will be staged will be different than anyone else would do it.”

The performance also will draw on the humorous subtexts and events in the play, which are often dropped. “Chekov always said that his plays were comedies. But when they’re produced, they don’t seem very funny,” Archer said. “I think ours will be highly entertaining. Some very funny things will happen.”

Archer decided to bring Uncle Vanya to the Thoresen Theatre stage because Chekov’s plays are classics— second only to Shakespeare in Archer’s opinion. The plays are not produced often because of a perception that they are thematically heavy: the characters are driven by a subtext, they don’t always say what they mean, and an audience can get lost unless the actors capture those nuances. But the Randolph cast is proving it can make Chekov interesting and enjoyable. “It’s been fun to watch the students really begin to understand how Chekov works and how deep they need to go to make the characters seem believable and real,” Archer said.