Why Uncle Vanya
This morning, as the Uncle Vanya team prepared to go on KUT's radio show Eklektikos with John Aieli, we posed the question to our selves (again), "what is Uncle Vanya about and why is it relevant?"
I answered that Vanya is about the moment before an epochal and cataclysmic culture shift as a culture and these lives look into a future that appears to promise little.
Matt Radford answered that the play is about conservation, of people, of ecology, of society, and of the things that we cannot create.
Liz Fisher countered that it is about a nest of complicated emotional relationships working with and (mostly) counter to each other.
The discrepancy between these three answers is telling. I play Vanya, Matt plays Astrov, and Liz plays Yelena, and these answers are very much from the character's perspective, and their chief concerns in the play. And this fact, in turn, is telling about Chekhov. Because the plays are so rich, so evocative, they refract into diverse perspectives and readings, each accurate. Like Shakespeare, Chekhov excavates the human psyche, getting after the Big questions. And this, finally, is why it is relevant, and what it is about.