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Uncle Vanya (Hunter Theater Project)

From 24 critic and 136 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent, Masterful

About the show

The Hunter Theater Project presents its inaugural production, a staging of a new translation of Anton Chekhov’s classic drama, directed by Richard Nelson. More…

Vanya and his niece Sonya struggle to care for the estate owned by Vanya’s brother-in-law, a wealthy and celebrated professor. When this local legend returns with a beautiful new wife and announces his plans to sell the estate, hidden passions explode and the lives of the entire family come undone. 

The New York Times

"It’s clearer, truer, and more comprehensible than it’s ever been before...I’m still shivery, teary-eyed, and stunned from seeing Richard Nelson’s devastatingly intimate production...This is as naked and fully human an 'Uncle Vanya' as we’re likely to see. Nelson’s impeccably balanced ensemble doesn’t seem to be so much interpreting the script as living it...The performances are so self-effacing, you won’t at first realize how thorough and completely felt they are." Full Review

The Washington Post

“A heart-piercing production as sublime as I’ve ever seen Chekhov performed...The actors...speak in intentionally normal tones of voice, and if you have trouble catching every word, Nelson has said he doesn’t much care...By distilling the text to a seemingly fresh variety of conversational truthfulness...Vanya’s silent suffering feel brutally real. And when in this instance Vanya’s patience finally runs out, Sanders’s explosion is nothing less than cataclysmic.” Full Review


"Nelson has a gift for portraying sharply observed families, capturing the affection and tension that arise in everyday interactions...The exquisite translation...strips the language to its essence. It's clear and illuminating. When a gunshot goes off, it's not the bang that surprises, but the sudden explosion of feeling. This is theater at its best: No special effects, no gizmos, just heartbreaking acting and a script that feels so contemporary, it could have been written last week." Full Review

Theater News Online

“The first ‘Vanya’ that brought me to tears and made me laugh in places I never had before...Credit must go to a fine cast and the intimate mise en scène that Nelson has been perfecting...What I found revelatory...with its un-showy acting and vocal delivery...was that the line between pathos and silliness, gravity and giddiness, was blown away. When we watch real, unscripted life, humor and heartbreak can switch places in the blink of an eye. Nelson solved the Chekhovian riddle.” Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"The results are successful in every way...I can wholeheartedly recommend this production to Chekhov novices and connoisseurs...Such terrible tales are best told in an understated way, and Nelson’s actors hardly ever raise their voices, whether figuratively or literally. Instead, they let you listen in as they watch the sun set on their bleak little world...One of our most accomplished character actors, Sanders gets to be the star of this show, scoring a decisive triumph in the title role." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“The translation, which feels fresh without being distractingly contemporary, fits neatly with Nelson's staging...The design consists of little more than a table and some chairs, with...mics hanging overhead, providing just enough...to make every word intelligible, despite the low-key, almost cinematic, acting style...Nelson has assembled a number of fine companions for Sanders' Vanya...Sanders carries the day; his Vanya is the preeminent member of this house of fools and broken hearts." Full Review


"Utilizes the distinctly small style that Nelson, as playwright and director, has honed over the past several years. The actors speak in a near whisper and express the unique suffering of these characters in true Chekhovian style, with an elegant balance of vocal and physical anguish...Nelson, Pevar, and Volokhonsky have created a lithe, colloquial cutting of 'Uncle Vanya'...It's the perfect introduction to the text for new audiences, while still capturing the spirit of the original." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"The Nelson-Pevear-Volokhonsky translation is unadorned but never dull, poetic but not pretentious...You can rest assured that this is still, first and foremost, Chekhov’s 'Uncle Vanya'...Intimate, sometimes whisper-quiet, and often deeply, deeply moving...And you might want to bring tissues for Sonya’s we’ll-live-and-we’ll-rest speech at the end. I’m not sure how Woods gets through that picture-imperfect description of life and death every night without breaking down." Full Review


"The most interesting feature of the translation is how the language rarely commits itself to a period...New York stage gem Jay O. Sanders is extremely compelling in the title role...But it's Yvonne Woods' captivating performance as Sonya, Serebryakov's daughter through his first marriage, that gives this production its true beauty...As long as Nelson's productions keep supplying such superb ensembles giving such fully-realized performances, familiarity breeds admiration." Full Review


"While an overriding sense of boredom and and failure afflicts all the characters, you won't be bored or happy with this latest of 'Uncle Vanya's' many translations and interpretations...While the translated dialogue is definitely contemporary it's not gratingly so but works well with the conversational line delivery...Nelson once again proves himself to be one of the rare playwright adept at directing his own work." Full Review

Time Out New York

"We’ve never seen a Vanya like this—huge, ox-necked, shuddering like a dray horse from from burdens he’s pulled too long. Sanders's acting contains a level of detail that simply shouldn’t be visible without a camera to magnify it...The only people onstage who come close to this titanic performance are Woods, a vivid and feeling actor, and DeVries, who can also render the pore-level naturalism that Nelson demands. But a central chunk of the play belongs to Astrov and Elena, who are less secure." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"There is too much Nelson and too little Chekhov. Nelson’s approach restricts the play’s emotional range and drains some of its humor and pathos...The level of the acting is quite uneven. Nelson stalwarts Jay O. Sanders as Vanya and Jon DeVries as Alexander Serebryakov make powerful impressions...The unfortunate casting of the key role of Dr. Astrov is the weakest element of the production...Fortunately Chekhov’s genius is resilient and comes through this adaptation mostly intact." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"The characters call each other by Russian names and the story retains its indeterminate Russian situation of 120 years ago. But for all emotional intents and purposes, the drama might as well be about the Serebryakov family sharing a miserable time in Rhinebeck last summer...Nelson’s trim adaptation and quiet staging of the play underscores the timeless nature of 'Uncle Vanya.' The artful simplicity and intimacy of his well-acted American interpretation of a Russian classic is very satisfying." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The production still has enough strengths to satisfy those (like myself) who have seen multiple productions of the play. Its biggest asset is unquestionably the invaluable Jay O. Sanders, who hands in a memorable turn in the title role. Larger in size than many of his celebrated predecessors, Sanders' stature makes his Vanya seem even more trapped in the cramped Russian house." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"It’s a pity that Nelson, Pevear, and Volokhonsky’s new version of ‘Uncle Vanya’...often seems to stick in the mouths of its actors. The cast is, for the most part, superb, and in the moments they’re not shown to best advantage, their inherent abilities are still well visible below the text...It’s a credit to them, to Nelson as a director, and to the irrepressible brilliance of Chekhov that the production still manages, labored language and all, to find moments of real humor and pathos." Full Review

Front Row Center

“I cannot muster up any enthusiasm for this production...The return of Sanders and DeVries is a welcome addition as both men give exceptional performances. This is a Vanya you will feel in your gut and an Alexánder who’s narcissism fits him like a tailored suit…At the center of this disappointment is the script...It takes Sanders and DeVries every ounce of their skills to light a match under this text, but so soggy is the writing that the flame fizzles out as soon as either leaves the stage.” Full Review


“Nelson’s adaptation is disappointing, not so much for the translation of the Russian master’s play but for the production Nelson has directed...This production lacks the humor and the emotional clout that makes Chekhov’s work so fascinating...The actor speak at normal voice levels, that is, they do not project their lines....The battle to hear was a massive distraction...The style was quite unrealistic...With Nelson’s muttered voices, the play is stripped of its desired effect upon the audie... Full Review

Broadway & Me

“With so much of Chekhov, the true drama occurs in the subtext, in the silences between the lines and on the faces of the actors...And so the problems with this production began...with the idea to stage the play in the round, which meant that I often couldn't see the expressions on the actors' faces...It also doesn't help that Nelson has the actors speak without any attempt to project their voices...The one bright spot is Jay O. Sanders' sympathetic portrayal of Vanya." Full Review

Los Angeles Times

for a previous production “A spectacular production...This new ‘Vanya’ has a conversational smoothness...The words tumble naturally from the mouths of the actors...This Old Globe production modernizes Chekhov's play without updating it...Every minute is imbued with a density of life...One of the most exquisite renderings of ‘Uncle Vanya’...a heartbreaking reading of the play that retains just enough of the original's sly humor to be truly Chekhovian...Pitch-perfect ensemble.” Full Review

Carol's Theatre Reviews Blogspot

for a previous production “A most talented cast...Pickens' unusual sound design is evident from the start. A cluster of microphones is suspended over the stage...It brought the actors into my world and visa versa...This memorable production will stand out for several reasons not the least of which is the accessibility of the translation, the impeccable sound design and the clarity and definitive movements and directness of bringing the characters to life...This is one ‘Vanya’ you will not want to miss. Two thumbs up!” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production “This production focuses on keeping things simple, emphasizing conversations that help to define the characters' relationships, and avoiding any hint that greater symbolism lies beneath...Nelson has directed the actors to keep their speech conversational, which means that a complex sound design is needed...The result is no less than stunning...The universality of feelings...is always clear and never contrived...Theatre lovers and novices will find this revival...one to cherish.” Full Review

San Diego Story

for a previous production “Yet another new translation of Chekhov’s first big success commissioned for this engagement from the well-respected team of Pevear and Volokhonsky plus the director, Nelson...I like the drive and the focus of their choices, avoiding slang and contemporary influences but still delivering the passion and heat...My only complaint is the exclusion of a supporting character, the old tenant Telegin...The acting ensemble is as praiseworthy as the rest of the project.” Full Review

Talk Theatre To Me

for a previous production “The Old Globe’s production of ‘Uncle Vanya’ is nothing short of an excellent example of letting a classic have its vibrant say once again...Presented in a ‘conversational’ style...Supplemented by very carefully positioned speakers...This play is well paced and as the relationships and heartbreak unfold, are punctuated with lightness with moments of humor...The characters...may be dissatisfied with some of their choices, but you won’t feel that way after seeing this show.” Full Review

Purple Words on a Gray Background

for a previous production “A production that plays both to the intimacy of the performance space and to the confidences and mostly muted confrontations between Chekhov’s characters...Sanders’ title-role portrayal is a stalwart one...The quiet strength of Sonya is deftly conveyed by Woods...’Uncle Vanya’ is ponderous, and its principals’ self-pity and blaming tiring over four tense but slowly unfolding acts. It will reward the patience of those who stick with it.” Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if want to see a master class in acting and directing.

Don't see it if you like fluffy, lighthearted shows.

Also Such a flawless production. I went a 2nd time and took 4 more with me.... Read more Read less

A magnificently realized & heartrending production ... not to be missed.

See it if you want to risk missing a once in a life time exp. I won't be here 50 yrs from now but if you are, you will be saying "did you see ... ?"

Don't see it if you are generally cranky about Chekhov or Richard Nelson.

Also It is general admission seating. I highly recommend sitting in the fir... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Profound

See it if You're seeking a powerful insight into human psychology.

Don't see it if You're looking for a lighthearted comedy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Jay o. sanders!!

See it if You love Chekov. You love naturalistic acting of the first order. You love theatre.

Don't see it if You can't sit still, listen, and be taken to another world.

Also As fine a show as I have seen in years. Run, don't walk! Jay O, Sander... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful

See it if you want to see the aways dependable Jay O. Sanders give the performance of his career in Richard Nelson's exquisite production.

Don't see it if you don't like intimate theatre or people speaking in normal tones.

Also Perhaps this production has the finest ensemble currently on stage in ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Riveting

See it if you want a very effective and brilliant interpretation of a Chekhov play. Outstanding acting, intimate setting, Emotionally satisfying

Don't see it if find plays a bore. If you really like theater I really can’t think of anything else that would make you not like this magnificent show

Absorbing, Masterful, Refreshing, Riveting, Great staging

See it if you enjoy thoughtful, intimate drama that unfolds as if in real life.

Don't see it if you're in a mood for showier star turns in full productions.

Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if You want to experience this masterwork in the most intimate surroundings imaginable.

Don't see it if You cannot LISTEN or have little patience for exploration of the monumental trivialities of daily life.

Also The Apple Plays don’t fall far from the tree! Nelson has ingeniously r... Read more Read less

Great acting, Masterful, Great writing, Great staging, Perfect

See it if You know Chekhov or you still need to learn him. Fabulous writing teamed with perfect delivery - what a treat!

Don't see it if you are to sick - physically or spiritually - to get there.

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Romantic, Great staging

See it if You have seen other productions of Vanya but felt emotionally disconnected from the material.

Don't see it if You dislike theatre in the round. You dislike the source material to the point where you feel you wouldn't enjoy any production of it.

Also "This man, who for twenty-five years has hashing over other people's i... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Fresh

See it if You relish a production of the play that makes sense and is enlightening. You appreciate excellent acting.

Don't see it if You don't like Chekhov and you can't sit still for nearly two hours. You prefer a broader style of performance.

Also I'm a Chekhov fan, but I'd never read Vanya and decided to shortly bef... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Great staging

See it if you love Chekhov and naturalistic staging. It's a beautiful, intimate piece of theater.

Don't see it if you like traditional plays and hate Chekhov.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you want to see a classic performed by outstanding actors and/or are interested in Russian history

Don't see it if you want to see something with more relevance to modern times

Also I had never seen any other productions of this play (or any other Chek... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Moving

See it if classic Chekhov play interpreted by Richard Nelson; similar in staging to his Gabriel plays - quietly spoken around a kitchen table; low key

Don't see it if you need to hear every bit of dialogue or if you don't like plays that are dialogue heavy with little action; did not like the Gabriel plays

Also Jay O. Sanders was excellent, even better than his wonderful performan... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Moving

See it if EVEN if you've never been able to get into Checkov. This production makes him completely accessible & engrossing.

Don't see it if you don't like plays w/heavy dialogue, unhappiness, or on the human condition These people lead lives of quiet desperation. It's a lesson.

Also Rarely do you get to see a production like this Uncle Vanya. ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing, Understated

See it if you love intelligent, brilliant & subtle acting, writing & direction. The quiet ending is devastating; Woods as Sonja is superb.

Don't see it if you are looking for action or a complicated approach to Chekov; you do not enjoy personal theater in an intimate setting;

Also Excellent, comprehensible translation of Uncle Vanya - no confusion or... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Resonant, Intimate, Accessible

See it if you want a smart, approachable, naturalistic staging of Chekhov that feels more like eavesdropping on a family than watching a classic drama

Don't see it if u don't like Nelson's quiet, low key, conversational productions à la Gabriels & Apple Family plays; u prefer your Russian drama traditional

Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Dated

See it if you like old time dramas up close and personal

Don't see it if You are turned off by Chekov

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if you want a unique production of a classic play with spectacular acting all around.

Don't see it if you only like modern theatre.

Also The only real issue I had with this was a slow beginning, but I unders... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Chekhov mad accessible to the modern audience

See it if you appreciate great acting, and you don’t mind alterstions of classic plays

Don't see it if you hate Chekhov or need a lot of action,

Also I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and thought the acting was excel... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Great translation

See it if you enjoy the wonderful ensemble and convincing realism and intimacy of Richard Nelson's productions, making a classic play more accessible.

Don't see it if you didn't like Richard Nelson's productions at the Public. This is an identical approach - all taking place in the kitchen & very low key.

Also As usual, with Richard Nelson's productions, if you don't have perfect... Read more Read less

Terrific rendition of uv! emphasizes the homeyness and the emotionality of the play. i agree with nyt reviewer that the actor playing elena needed to show more of why the two men fell for her.

See it if You want to see a definitive version of the play.

Don't see it if You are put off by Richard Nelson's directorial shtick.

As true a production of this play as one could wish for,

See it if you like Vanya or Russian theater and appreciate great acting.

Don't see it if you are looking to be entertained.

Also Richard Nelson works his everyday magic. Immensely rewarding.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing

See it if You like the subtleties of Richard Nelson. The quiet writing. The quiet storytelling.

Don't see it if You don't like the Chekhov play.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Slow

See it if you like theatre in the round, you want a nicely staged, generally well-acted version of a classic. It is satisfactory, if not excellent.

Don't see it if you have hearing difficulties. The folks next to me were really struggling, it seemed, Also, if you like scenery & don't like intimate shows

Cast & Creatives (14)