Plenty to consider in “Uncle Vanya”

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

“I think this is going to be a show that everyone can be proud of, and everyone can look back on and laugh.”

Anne Coleman ’09 speaks fondly of the production she and nearly 50 other cast and crewmembers have been pouring their hearts into for most of the semester. It hasn’t been in vain – Uncle Vanya, adapted and directed by 07’s Aaron Hollander, is full of a profound spirit channeled by deeply moving acting and design. Anton Chekhov wrote the play as neither a comedy nor a tragedy; rather, it is meant to be a sort of tale of country life. Says Hollander, “It has tragic and comic elements, but they often times fall right on top of one another.” This is certainly not an event to miss.


Chekhov’s play, written in 1899, follows the lives of individuals living on the estate of the elderly intellectual Professor Serebryakov and his arrestingly beautiful young wife, Yelena. The Professor’s brother-in-law by his first marriage, Vanya, must contend with his own frustration with the world while his affections for Yelena begin to spiral beyond his control. Meanwhile, the Professor’s daughter Sonya strains to maintain a poignant sort of hope in her overwrought life as the object of her own affections, Dr. Astrov, remains lost in his world of philosophies. Their longings, disappointments, and small victories are interwoven into a story that is both heartrending and doughty, provocative and comical. In the words of Hollander, “Uncle Vanya is supersaturated with life.”

Vanya1Photographs by Miles Skorpen

Hollander says that his hope for the performance is that it will break the audience’s expectations. Given Chekhov’s reputation for melancholic performances permeated by an aura of drearyness, it is often a surprise that the writer was disappointed that so many of his plays were categorized as tragedies. “What I’m really trying to do is portray Chekhov the way he really wanted to be seen, which was not as dreary,” says Hollander. Whether or not the writer’s vision is realized, perhaps through the lively set or deeply rooted passion of the actors, will be for the audience to decide.


Performing in Uncle Vanya will be Christopher Compton ’09 as the title character, Niccolo Morettei ’10 as Professor Serebryakov, Giannina Esquivel ’08 as Yelena, Randall Johnston ’09 as Maman, Dustin Trabert ’10 as Dr. Astrov, Jesse Gottschalk ’09 as Telyegin (‘Waffles’), Sofia Rivkin-Haas ’09 as Marina, Mike Karcher ’07 as Yefim, and Katie Sauvain ’09 as Sonya. Sauvain gives a particularly moving performance that “anyone would regret to miss,” says Coleman. Weaving itself between the four acts is Shostakovitch’s 10th string quartet, which complement’s the plays “Russian quirkyness,” says Hollander. For an evening of laughter, grief, fury, and “supersaturated life,” come and see Uncle Vanya at 8:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday or at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday on the LPAC main stage.

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