Theatre Review

Gamm & Columbus take fresh approach to Russian drama

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Most theatre goers have suffered through the suffering of the extended Russian family, often portrayed heavily in Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”

It took a collaboration between Gamm Theatre and Trinity Artistic Director, Curt Columbus to make the play come alive.

Columbus translated and also directed the play, bringing out the subtle humor, while the talented Gamm ensemble livened up the action to further enhance the play.

Michael McCarty’s tight four-tier set allows the actors to move about quickly over the two-hour, two-acts (compacted from four).

Life is boring and stupid, as seen through the eyes of Uncle Vanya (Tony Estrella), overseer of the extended family’s estate.

Professor Serebryakov (Richard Donelly), Vanya’s former mentor, has left the city for life in the country, bringing his young, beautiful wife Yelena (Marianna Bassham) to liven things up. Both Vanya and Astrov, the local doctor (Steve Kidd) are infatuated by the seductive woman, while others see her as disrupting the estate.

While most of the characters are bored and boring, Astrov attracts the women with his progressive views and actions related to improving the environment.

“Something is wrong in this house,” the professor proclaims, and we know that “this house” is symbolic of Mother Russia, where vodka is a necessary escape from the tediousness of everyday life.

While Serebryakov is obsessed with his failing health, Vanya sees life at 40 as over. He eats, drinks and sleeps to “occupy his time” and has nothing in between. The best years of his life have been wasted and he contemplates suicide.

The play ends in conflict and ends in despair as Vanya and niece Sonya (Rachel Delude) know that they must go on living.

Depressing, yes, but Gamm’s production is filled with humor, most of it sarcastic, and excellent performances. Music has been added to lighten things a bit, with all of the characters picking up instruments from accordions to fiddles.

Rounding out the perfectly chosen cast are Casey Seymour Kim as Marina, David Rabinow as Waffles, Paula Faber as Marya and Gunnar Manchester as Yefim.

“Uncle Vanya” is at Gamm Theatre, 172 Exchange St., Pawtucket, through February 18. For tickets call 723-4266.

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