Arts Runoff: VANYA

Vodka, morphine, love and family

Summary: A new adaptation of Chekhov’s renowned Uncle Vanya. Mixed signals, missed communications, everyday farces and tragedies in a family trying to deal with the illness of a father. This show is the senior thesis work of three students: Cori Hundt (acting), Michael Kessler (acting) and Mindy Marquis (set design).

Good: Everything is detailed. That starts with the set. The back wall, a chaotic web of fabric and lace, offsets the ordered tchotchkes in the living-room scenery. // The directing, by Charles Giardina ’12, is also detailed. He uses his Radio Theater melodrama skills expertly: the characters try to be huge and dramatic but end up stumbling over language or emotion, to hilarious and wrenching results. // The best acting I’ve ever seen Kessler and Hundt do. I’ve known Cori since my second day at Middlebury; that might cause a positive conflict of interests, but it also makes me aware of habits she might fall into or choices she might make. She was bolder and goofier and freer than I’ve seen her in any other role. // And, of course, Noah Berman and Molly O’Keefe were just as fantastic as I expected them to be.

Bad: Extended monologs delivered half to the audience and half to an imaginary character are tough to pull off. Most were handled masterfully, but a few moments went a little too far over the edge into poetic apostrophe and made the actor seem detached.

Broad: Hundt decided to do Vanya as her thesis after seeing a production in England. This was the first US performance of the show. Maybe it’s just my ’11 pre-nostalgia talking, but this group of senior Theater majors has brought a huge amount of creativity and novelty to Midd.

Contextual rating: If you have something important to do this weekend,
-…do it, and see this show if you can.
-…put it off and see this show. (I would have given Vanya the highest rating, but I won’t be seeing Euridice until Saturday afternoon. Since this is a “contextual rating,” I can’t suggest you skip a show I don’t know about yet.)
-…skip it and see this show.

Vanya, tonight (Saturday) at 8:00. Hepburn Zoo. $4. Tickets available at the door. I don’t know how, but somehow Mindy Marquis fit a huge amount of seating into the Zoo without cramping the set. Kudos again to her.


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