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Playwright Annie Baker’s acclaimed translation of
‘Uncle Vanya’ gets West Coast premiere at Antaeus
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Sept. 10, 2015) — Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya bursts with passion and fierce humor in Pulitzer Prize and three-time Obie Award-winning playwright Annie Baker’s colloquial translation, adapted from a literal translation by Margarita Shalina and the original Russian text. The Antaeus Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Baker’s fresh new version, hailed as one of the top 10 shows of 2012 by both The New York Times and New York magazine, in a fully partner-cast production. Robin Larsen directs for an October 15 opening at the Antaeus Theater in NoHo, with low-priced previews beginning October 8.
On a country estate, Vanya’s monotonous existence is thrust into chaos by the arrival of his brother-in-law’s beautiful new wife. Written with the “goal of creating a version that sounds to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play’s first productions in the provinces in 1898,” Baker’s Uncle Vanya introduces 21st century audiences to Chekhov’s enduring wit, insight and emotional depth.
According to a profile in The New York Times, Uncle Vanya is Baker’s favorite play, and digging into the original led to an even stronger affinity with Chekhov. Baker called it a “huge revelation” to “discover that the Russian text is riddled with ellipses, sentence fragments and filler — words like ‘tak’ and ‘nu,’ rough equivalents of ‘um’ and ‘er.’ ” Previous translations have “weirdly translated” those fragments “into full sentences with periods… Not many people translate the filler,” she said.
“As interpreted by Annie, these Chekhov characters talk and relate like me, and they don’t pull any punches,” says Larsen. “The play is perfectly relevant to today. It’s the human dilemma, played out again and again over time, and in every culture. The dysfunction of ego is universal and timeless.”
In the Antaeus tradition best known as “partner casting,” two actors share every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process to enrich the creative experience for both cast and audience. In Uncle Vanya, the title role is shared by Arye Gross and Don R. McManus, with Harry Groener and Lawrence Pressman as Vanya’s pompous and egotistical brother-in-law, Professor Serebryakov; Rebecca Mozo and Linda Park as Yelena, Serebryakov’s beautiful young wife; Andrew Borba and Jeffrey Nordling as Astrov, the disillusioned country doctor; Shannon Lee Clair and Rebekah Tripp as Sonya, Serebryakov’s daughter from a previous marriage; Anne Gee Byrd and Mimi Cozzens as Vanya’s old mother, Maria; Morlan Higgins and Clay Wilcox as the impoverished landowner, Telegin; Dawn Didawick and Lynn Milgrim as Marina, an old nanny; and John Allee and Paul Baird as Yefim, a hired man.
Annie Baker is currently one of America’s most celebrated playwrights. Her other full-length plays include John (recently closed in an extended run at the Signature Theatre), The Flick (Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Susan Smith Blackburn Award, Obie Award for Playwriting), Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best New American Play), The Aliens (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Obie Award for Best New American Play) and Body Awareness (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright). Her plays have been produced at over 150 theaters throughout the U.S. and in over a dozen countries around the world. Other recent honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, Hull-Warriner Award, Steinberg Award and the Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library.
Robin Larsen is the recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle’s 2015 Milton Katselas Award for Career Achievement in Direction, and the production of A Delicate Balance that she directed for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble garnered the Circle’s McCulloh Award for Revival at the same ceremony. Other directing credits include Mrs. Warren’s Profession at Antaeus; the L.A. premiere of I and You for the Fountain; the L.A. premiere of David Harrower’s Blackbird for Rogue Machine (LADCC nomination, Best Production; five “Best of 2011” lists including the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly); the world premiere of Pursued By Happiness by Keith Huff at the Road Theatre Company (Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice”); and the West Coast premiere of The Fall To Earth by Joel Drake Johnson, starring JoBeth Williams, at the Odyssey (LADCC nomination, Huffington Post “2012 Top Los Angeles Theater Productions”). Robin’s West Coast premiere of Four Places, also by Joel Johnson, at Rogue Machine was one of the most lauded plays of the 2010 L.A. theater season, winning Ovation, LADCC and Backstage Garland awards for Best Production. For the Black Dahlia Theatre, Robin directed the West Coast premiere of Tryst (five Ovation Award nominations including Best Production and Best Director, three LA Weekly Awards including Best Play, and two Backstage Garland Awards including Best Director) and the L.A. premiere of David Schulner’s An Infinite Ache (Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice”). Robin is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals around the world. Her web series Sex & Marriage, created with playwright John Pollono, can be seen on Justin Lin’s YouTube network YOMYOMF.
Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Southern California. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members — many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences — regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who never see an understudy due to Antaeus’ trademark “partner casting,” frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors.
Scenic design for Uncle Vanya is by Michael Raiford; lighting design is by Leigh Allen; costume design is by Jocelyn Hublau Parker; sound design is by Christopher Moscatiello; props design is by Adam Meyer; the dramaturg is Christopher Breyer; music director is Marvin Etzioni; and the production stage manager is Kristin Weber.
Performances of Uncle Vanya take place Oct. 15 through Dec. 6 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no matinee performance on Saturday, Oct. 17). Talk back Thursdays begin on Oct. 22: stay after the performance and discuss the play with the cast. Six preview performances take place Oct. 8 through Oct. 14. Tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays (except Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 which are $34 and include a post-performance reception), and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays. Preview tickets are priced at $15. The Antaeus Theatre Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Parking is available for $8 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.
Details for Calendar Listings
Uncle Vanya – Anton Chekhov’s classic tragicomedy bursts with passion and fierce humor in Pulitzer Prize and three-time Obie Award-winning playwright Annie Baker’s colloquial translation. Antaeus Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Baker’s fresh new version, hailed as one of the top 10 shows of 2012 by both The New York Times and New York magazine, in a fully partner-cast production. On a country estate, Vanya’s monotonous existence is thrust into chaos by the arrival of his brother-in-law’s beautiful new wife.
Written by Anton Chekhov
Adapted by Annie Baker working with a literal translation by Margarita Shalina and the original Russian text
Directed by Robin Larsen
Starring John Allee, Paul Baird, Andrew Borba, Anne Gee Byrd, Shannon Lee Clair, Mimi Cozzens, Dawn Didawick, Harry Groener, Arye Gross, Morlan Higgins, Don R. McManus, Lynn Milgrim, Rebecca Mozo, Jeffrey Nordling, Linda Park, Lawrence Pressman, Rebekah Tripp, Clay Wilcox
Previews: Oct. 8-14
Performances: Oct. 15-Dec. 6
Tuesday at 8 p.m.: Oct. 13 ONLY (preview)
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Oct. 14 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 8 (preview), 15 (opening), 22, 29; Nov. 5 12, 19; Dec. 3 (dark Nov. 26)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 9 (preview), 16 (opening), 23, 30; Nov. 6, 13, 20, 27; Dec. 4
Saturdays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 24, 31; Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28; Dec. 5 (no 2 p.m. perf. on Oct. 10 or 17)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 10 (preview), 17, 24, 31; Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28; Dec. 5
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 11 (preview), 18, 25; Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Dec. 6
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA, 91601
(1½ bocks south of Magnolia)
$8 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia.
Opening Night performances on Oct. 15 & Oct. 16: $34 (includes a reception with the actors)
Thursdays and Fridays: $30 (except Oct. 15 & Oct. 16)
Saturdays and Sundays: $34