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Steven Culp in "Uncle Vanya"

November 16 - November 19, 1977

College of William and Mary: Phi Beta Kappa Hall, Williamsburg, VA

Playwright by Anton Checkhov Alexander Serebrakoff (Father) - Steven Culp
Directed by Bruce McConachie Vanya - Richard Bannin
Helena - Margaret Vincent
Sonya - Laurie G. Smith
Ilya Ilich - Hardwick Spencer
Marina - Irene C. Maher
Dr. Astrov - L. Curry Worsham

A Tale Thoughts Can Tell

The sweetly mournful strains of a Russian guitar echoed throughout the William and Mary Theatre's dreamlike production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. The listless tempo of the music harmonized with director Bruce McConachie's total concept of the insular frustration of Russian provincial life.

Debuting a very human translation by Eugene K. Bristow, the show was a compassionate portrayal of developing eccentrics, isolated both from each other and themselves.

While McConachie's calm, naturalistic approach was generally refreshing, the first two acts suffered under a lethargic pace. Chekhov's drama has a mental rather than physical appeal, but the final acts proved that the intellectual can be visually exciting, if the actors move with conviction. The production was basically successful because of the fire and life that radiated from the entire cast in the last half of the show.

The acting quality was widely divergent between roles; in general the male characters carried the show. Richard Bannin as Vanya brought the self-mocking and self-pitying tendencies of his character to light. Only in physical portrayal did his concentration break; the scenes with Helena, his sister-in-law, being noticeably awkward.

In contrast, Margaret Vincent as Helena made an immediate impression on the audience, aided by Bambi Stoll's marvelous costumes. She glided aloofly about the stage with the elegant sophistication demanded of the role. But she had a disappointingly weak grasp of Helena's inner self, resulting in a character lacking depth.

Admittedly the role of Sonya poses problems in terms of believability; Laurie G. Smith managed to fill her part acceptably. Greater moments of life were occasionally sparked by the supporting cast, notable Hardwick Spencer as Ilya Ilich and Irene C. Maher as Marina, although the minor parts strayed into stereotypes.

The most consistent performance was turned in by L. Curry Worsham as Dr. Astrov. His mental and physical command generated great charisma. Worsham breathed humanity into his role, allowing the contradictory elements of cynicism and idealism to mesh into a truly real man.

Realistic characters moved in an impressionistic set designed by J.H. Bledsoe and Rebecca Ritter.

The skeletal 19th century atmosphere emphasized isolation, while adapting ingeniously to the demands of the script. The fragile setting was a moving easel for Chekhov's portraits of lonely eccentrics in self-exile from their fellow men. (c) Colonial Echo Yearbook, College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA), Class of 1978, Volume: 80, p. 287

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