New York | 2h 0m | Ends Sep 01

Life Sucks.

From 13 critic and 209 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Great writing

About the show

Wheelhouse Theater Company presents the New York premiere of Aaron Posner’s reimagining of Chekhov’s timeless classic, "Uncle Vanya."

It’s Chekhov without the birch trees. After taking aim at "The Seagull" with "Stupid F*cking Bird," Aaron Posner is back with an irreverent contemporary remix of "Uncle Vanya." Egos clash, hearts hunger, and souls cry out for meaning. Life staggers. Life confounds. Life is beautiful. 

This Week in New York Blog

"One of the best plays of 2019, Aaron Posner’s outrageously funny, irreverent reimagining...Wise controls the glorious chaos as the barriers between what is real and what isn’t break down in hysterical ways, but it’s key to understand that the characters are always the characters, never the actors portraying them...The cast is splendid...A 'Vanya' for the twenty-first century, a brilliant skewering of contemporary values and, in the end, a triumphant celebration of that little thing called li... Full Review


“Despite some new, deliciously playful touches, the whip-smart play surprisingly tracks the underlying work faithfully...The brash ‘Life Sucks’ endearingly wears its heart on its sleeve, unlocking the well-worn play for today’s audiences in a way that’s both accessible and authentically wise...I’ve never seen Chekhov more entertaining, thanks in large part to a truly stellar cast...There’s a certain uncanny truthfulness to the acting...Resulting in a kind of alchemy that can only occur in the... Full Review

Front Row Center

"It’s a light and airy play made out of the building blocks of life, presented with doses of humor poking fun at the ridiculousness of our views of ourselves, our relationships, and our desires. Sometimes schmaltzy, farcical, sometimes a little pushy and redundant, you can’t but help to take what’s happening on stage in front of you and layer it on to your own precious life...The cast works together very well, especially in two-person scenes." Full Review

The New York Times

"Bitingly funny, unexpectedly touching play...The characters and basic plot will be familiar to 'Uncle Vanya' fiends. But at the same time, 'Life Sucks,' will be familiar to just about anybody...Briskly directed by Jeff Wise for the Wheelhouse company, the production keeps finding perceptive ways to rejuvenate the story. As portrayed by Mr. Biehl, for instance, this Vanya is a tightly coiled ball of frustration and pent-up fury rather than the embittered truth-teller we tend to get." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"What’s magnetic about Posner’s updates is their highly dramatic flair. He has great personal fun compounding his Rubik’s Cubes with metatheatrical bits that might have had the good doctor Chekhov stuck for a critical diagnosis...Obviously smart as a whip with his innovations, Posner sticks nonetheless to Chekhov’s basic proceedings...By adhering to Chekhov’s themes, Posner keeps love, longing and frustration streaming through the proceedings." Full Review


"It’s a wild yet emotionally resonant work...Characters address the audience directly, they engage in sly wordplay, overlapping dialogue is common and absurdism abounds in this free-form yet faithful treatment...That the flawless ensemble is so easygoing and seamlessly connected is a testament to Wise’s great skills. Despite the piece’s excessive length, Wise succeeds at maintaining momentum while mining all of the comedy and emphasizing the reflectiveness." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Posner may have borrowed Chekhov’s kaleidoscopic love pentangle, but he’s updated events to the present day and salted the evening with postmodern hijinks, which include frequent check-ins with the audience and a theaterwide show-of-hands about regret...It helps that one could mount a superb 'Vanya' with this exact cast; it’s a dream team, warm and real and confident under Jeff Wise’s calm direction. And Posner's credo resonates beautifully with the 1898 play." Full Review


"We can't help thinking Chekhov would be delighted with Aaron Posner's 'Life Sucks'...Posner's characters use profanity onstage that would no doubt have shocked Chekhov and his audiences. Their concerns reflect modern times...What's more, the actors are continually and delightfully breaking the fourth wall...What makes this re-interpretations so funny and so true is the way Posner makes everything that Chekhov sedately states or subtly implies blatantly announced.” Full Review

Theater Reviews from my Seat

"Aaron Posner spins an effective comedy out of these familiar characters and situations...There are plenty of laughs throughout this production...In between jokes, there is all the Chekhovian self-absorption, self-deprecation and self-torture one could hope for. This playwright knows it is always fun to 'watch privileged, arrogant people argue endlessly' about meaningless esoteric minutiae." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Offers enough differentiation while staying true to the original that it's a welcome addition to the season. We already had a definitive Vanya in Jay O. Saunders, but Jeff Biehl proves that there is always room for more memorable portrayals of the character...The tight ensemble is so natural that at times scenes seem improvised (some credit for this must also go to director Jeff Wise)." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The abundant twists and turns in most narrative arcs ultimately boil down to a series of themes...There is no wall between the characters and the audience. The characters tell their problems, secrets and intentions to the audience and often ask for their advice and opinions which the audience has no problems sharing...The play is never boring, the language is funny. The situations are ludicrous. The best reason to go is to watch Austin Pendleton own the stage." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"I’m afraid that I can’t join in the enthusiasm for the play. Posner’s method seems to involve using the F word as often as possible, adding a few contemporary touches such as a reference to student loans, and breaking the fourth wall not only to address the audience but to interrogate it...The direction by Jeff Wise at times seemed sluggish, at other times indulgent. Aside for a few moments, such as the confrontation scene between Ella and Vanya, I was rarely moved." Full Review

Plays to See

"Despite the talent assembled on stage, and some funny, well-timed zingers, what we’re largely presented with is cynical, expletive-laden speechifying about how human relationships are difficult and desire can be frustrating...The result is crude and superficially clever, and ultimately quite empty...At times the play seems to be flirting with farce, at other times satire, but it never entirely commits. The play mistakes cynicism for wit, and vulgarity for irreverence." Full Review

If you love real theatre, go, go,go!

See it if You have grown up as a theatre goer loving the real thing: this is it.

Don't see it if You are going to have a snit that the F word is used, or you feel Chekhov-Inspired works are not for you. But you will be missing out.

Also The acting (Nadia Bowers, Kim Chatterjee, Kevin Isola, Barbara Kingsle... Read more Read less

Hilarious, Great staging, Great acting, Delightful, Clever

See it if you like non-traditional staging and dramatic love stories about life.

Don't see it if you want traditional drama.

Great writing, Great acting, Funny, Delightful, Clever

See it if you like intelligent takes on classic theater. If you like stellar ensembles and actors that are passionate about their craft.

Don't see it if you hate Uncle Vanya.

Profound, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if You love great theatre and like shows that merge comedy and drama

Don't see it if You want something that is easy and that doesn't challenge you.

Absorbing, Great writing, Great staging, Great acting, Delightful

See it if you have seen or read Uncle Vanya at least once, yearn to understand the nuances in complex relationships of characters in modern context

Don't see it if you cannot sit for 2.5 hours including one intermission, feel uncomfortable with frequent 4th wall breaking, bored by meaning of life plays

Also The opening 4th wall breaking exposition of the play unnecessarily len... Read more Read less

Great writing, Exquisite, Run and go!, Supremely cast with fantastic, appealing, true actors!, My favorite play in years!

See it if You love real, smart, witty, introspective works! Superb acting in a small setting. No need to know Uncle Vanya. Asks great questions. RUN!

Don't see it if Smart great plays are not for you.

Also The time flew by. I loved every thing about this show.

Entertaining, Absorbing, This new june production is dynamic, ferociously aware of what matters in life despite all that sucks., Great acting, Funny

See it if you want to experience the power of people to confront their own and each other's distraught, lost, raging or stifled lives - with dark joy!

Don't see it if You want Checkov's Vanya pure, want actors to stay politely behind the 4th wall

Also Even if you saw the previous production, go again to see actors go dee... Read more Read less

Edgy, Intelligent, Great writing, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if you love intelligent writing, coupled with a great cast and profound and complex existential issues

Don't see it if you have no patience for intellectual forays into one's psyche

Thought-provoking, Great acting, Funny, Clever

See it if You want terrific writing, top notch acting, and a masterful contemporary spin on Chekhov (attempting that usually fails - not here).

Don't see it if You want splash or simple mindedness.

The high life

See it if Love Chekhov and want to see a variation with hip, attractive people in this century.

Don't see it if Hate fourth wall breaks in plays. Hate anything over two hours.

Also Pendleton and Bowers are quite the May Dec couple! Love all the verbal... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Funny, Clever

See it if You want to be entertained and challenged (but not too much). Moving, funny, smart, touching ... Just see it.

Don't see it if You want mindless entertainment (not that there's anything wrong with that). This will stick with you a little.

Great acting, Funny

See it if You want to see a great ensemble of actors with material they can go to town on.

Don't see it if You don't like speeches in which people analyze their situations at length, albeit comically.

Resonant, Great writing, Great acting, Exquisite

See it if you like modern spins on classic works. You are into philosophical questions about life. You enjoy high quality theater and entertainment

Don't see it if you don't like actors breaking the 4th wall. you need big productions or special effects. Character studies bore you

Wonderful!, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you have ever seen an Aaron Posner play, you know he is an incredible writer. If you have never seen Aaron Posner, you are in for a treat!

Don't see it if You are offended by adaptations of Chekhov. But seriously, even the master would admire Posner's work. The actors were superb.

Also This play was seriously one of the best I have seen (I see about 60/ye... Read more Read less

Hilarious, Great writing, Great acting, Funny, Delightful

See it if a funny, moving and relevant play with a great cast is your type of thing

Don't see it if you have a 100% aversion to characters breaking the 4th wall

Must see, Refreshing, Clever, Ambitious, Masterful

See it if You know and like Vanya and appreciate a playwright who can build a new, beautiful thing onthat sound foundation. And you will laugh,

Don't see it if You only like musicals, have never heard of Uncle Vanya or loathe terrific acting.

Vanya "sort of", Chekhov's original not as much fun, Life for the picking

See it if you like classics reconstructed by modern playwrights. Wheelhouse Theater's rendition of Aaron Posner's "sort of" Vanya is laugh-riot fun.

Don't see it if you don't like long shows, although the 2 hrs & 20 minutes (w/ 10 minute intermission) fly by. Also avoid if you dislike introspection.

Also Actors often speak to the audience. but from within their characters. ... Read more Read less

Great staging, Entertaining, Great acting, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You like Chekhov and plays about people and how we understand ourselves and relate to each other.

Don't see it if You have a problem with modern takes on classic works or don't like breaking the fourth wall.

Great theater, Great writing, Great acting, Refreshing, Intelligent

See it if you like extremely inventive, creative reimagining of Chekhov. Very alive and engaging. Great evening in the theater.

Don't see it if you want something traditional

Entertaining, Enchanting, Delightful, Clever, Absorbing

See it if Such an interesting evening of theater--unlike most things you've ever seen. This is not your college English course Uncle Vanya.

Don't see it if You don't like the idea of actors breaking the fourth wall.

Great acting, Enchanting, Entertaining, Clever, Delightful

See it if if you like Uncle Vanya and want a great fun evening in the theater

Don't see it if you do not like shows that break the fourth wall

Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you want to see some amazing performers put on a 2 hour about the love and lust through multiple characters eyes.

Don't see it if you are looking for a musical. This is not for everyone, but I knew nothing about Uncle Vanya and still really enjoyed it. Not for kids.

Also Going into the show my expectations were low not know much about what ... Read more Read less

Quirky, Intelligent, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You enjoy quirky comedies and non-sequiters. Some good actors bring lots of laughs to this play (very loosely) based on Uncle Vanya.

Don't see it if You don't like characters breaking the fourth wall or modern reinterpretations of classics.

Intelligent, Clever, Profound, Funny, Inspiring

See it if You want to see a truly inspired take on Uncle Vanya. Great writing/acting/set/lighting/costumes and direction. Even moments of improv work.

Don't see it if You’re a purist. This is not your classic Uncle Vanya. They break the fourth wall. I think it works beautifully but it is quirky.

Also There were moments of pure genius! The “Three Things I Love” scene mad... Read more Read less

Must see, Refreshing, Profound, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you have read Uncle Vanya or if you haven't. Not since Christopher Durang has a playwright so joyously revamped a classic. Phenomenal acting

Don't see it if you don't want to experience grand, original theatre. So clever, so touching, so witty. I came with no expectations. I left a better human.

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