Thursday, February 01, 2007

Vanya

Artists Repertory Theatre
Posted by Frenchglen January 25, 2007; closes February 25, 2007

Saturated with color, longing, regret. Powerhouse cast expertly sustains a languid, dreamy tone. Time stops and the stage expands. Beautifully constructed Chekhovian moments where absolutely nothing – and yet everything – is happening in front of us. Audience responded to western environmental themes of adapted setting. Weakness: Elena struggles to keep up.

29 comments:

David said...

Poor "Elena." So badly miscast. She's an object argument in favor of stage training for stage actors; one may not NEED one's arms on t.v., but one does on stage....

qk said...

Overall impressive, certainly moving. Great, creative translation. William Hurt's accent seemed to come and go, and when it was there I had no idea what kind of accent it was supposed to be. Elena seemed to enchant every character in the play without enchanting anyone in the audience. It baffles me that there isn't more publicity about an Oscar-winning actor being in a Portland play.

Anonymous said...

I believe that is part of Mr. Hurts contract they are not allowed to use him in any advertising...ironic huh?

Anonymous said...

that and they had to use his girlfriend instead of better Portland actresses to play Elena.

Barbara said...

Which begs the casting question: Was it worth putting up with the girl in order to get the guy? She seems as obviously un-qualified as he is over-qualified ... Would I have made the same casting concession in order to book a "star"? hmmm.... a rock and a hard place ....

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think it was clearly worth it.

Anonymous said...

Of course you make the decision...you make MAJOR bank on a show that helps strengthen the financial life of your company...we would all make the same choice if given the option the show might be really good instead of "Mind blowing" but on the practical side you'd be a fool not to do it.

Anonymous said...

And there's always the possibility that a few EXTRA bodies will show just to enjoy watching the newbie fall flat on her face.

Anonymous said...

how could you live with yourself as an actress if you had to rely on your boyfriend's star power to get you roles, which you clearly are not ready for? and what kind of actor is willing to sacrifice the quality of his project to do his girlfriend a favor? some favor! i mean, sure she's collecting this paycheck, but would any actress in town trade places with her right now?

Anonymous said...

i, anonymous 11:41, wanted to add that i have not seen the show yet, but had been feeling sorry for the actress playing elena, since she was so universally panned, and only have now read the rumor right here and now that she is hurt's special lady friend.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I'm sure A.R.T is in turmoil over the concession they probably just cry all over the piles of money they made on that decision...and I'm sure that actress has her very high powered man open as many doors as he can for her...and you would too -anon 11:41- so would anyone here and if you say you wouldn't walk through a door "someone else" opened for you...well then you are either a liar or incredibly naive.

Anonymous said...

i don't know that i'm naive. maybe you're cynical. honestly, i'm sure i'd do it once, but after every single review of the show told me that i didn't belong in that show, i'd probably not feel comfortable getting another part that way. i mean, it can't feel good.

Anonymous said...

Rumor, schmumor. Vendy was Hurt's date to the Oscars last year, and Aussie tabloids are full of all sorts of wild allegations about her sex life. I can't know that Vendy's sleeping with Hurt, but it's obvious that she wouldn't have been cast if it weren't for him.

As for whether it was worth it? Financially, sure. But artistically, she was so bad that she drags the show under. The scene where she stares blankly at her hands was particularly memorable, in a pathetic sort of way.

If there's anyone who should be ashamed here, it's William Hurt. Hasn't the guy gone through enough women already?

Louis said...

Boy, and I was worried when I let my subscription to People and US Weekly run out. Luckily I can still catch up on my gossip here.

I'm down with talking about a show, but I don't really care who's sleeping with who, whether it got them the part or not.

Can we please just talk about the show?

Anonymous said...

Of course not. We're theatre folk. Where would we be without gossip?

Anonymous said...

Plus there are times when who-is-sleeping-with-whom does affect the show....

Well, OK, that's unfair.

To take a step back ...

The artistic question, if there is one, is one of casting.

So then: Are casting motivations fair game for a critique of a play?

Louis said...

"Are casting motivations fair game for a critique of a play?"

I don't think so. IMHO, we don't see that motivation on stage. We see the actor. Is that person miscast? I'd go for that as a valid critique.

I mean, if so-and-so's S.O. was universally praised in the role, would anyone care who they were sleeping with?

Apart from the itchy gossip parts of us, that is. But I doubt from the theatrically-critical parts of us.

Anonymous said...

So aside from all this, Mrs. Lincoln ... how did you enjoy the show?

Follow Spot said...

I agree -- back to the show -- since I haven't seen it yet, I'm curious to know more about the performances, the direction, the design ...

Anonymous said...

I find this personal skewering of an individual completely irresponsible, as well as cruel, and would ask Followspot to strongly consider editing comments that are not artistic but hurtful and in this case semi-slanderous. This Blog can be interesting to read, but when it goes down this sort of path, I find myself wondering if I should even engage in reading it.

Tim True said...

That last post was me-Tim True...

Follow Spot said...

I have to say Mr. True has a point relative to both this thread and Misalliance.

I'd really prefer not to moderate the comments because I do not think it's the best solution. I don't really have the time and it would cause a significant delay in getting your comments live, in effect suspending your comments until I have a few minutes to read them and, in my ultimate wisdom (that's a joke), decide whether they are fit for public consumption (which, for me, defeats the whole purpose of a public forum). Other inelegant solutions include disallowing anonymous comments and/or allowing comments only by "members" of the blog. I really don't like any of those solutions because I truly think they will damper participation overall and make this less of a convocation of the community and just lil ol me and Frenchglen posting one-way wah-wahs without y'all weighing in.

On the other hand, I acknowledge that it is my responsibility as blog-owner to serve as moderator so that Followspot remains a constructive source of criticism and information. To that end, watch for changes if we continue to stray ... [now in stern, parental voice:] and I mean it this time.

Follow Spot said...

PS - On a technical note, I should explain that for better or worse Blogger (the site that hosts the Followspot blog) doesn't allow me to selectively edit comments -- it's basically all or nothing, unless I take the time to manually cut-and-paste-and-edit-and-repost. Otherwise, it's all or nothing. So you see why it would be time-consuming to edit out one snarky, off-topic sentence from a much longer, otherwise interesting criticism ....

So maybe that's an insider tip: if you have something that's snarky and something that's helpful -- make them separate comments so that if I nix one, the other remains ...

And while we're off topic on technical things (see? I should be editing myself here) ...

Q: Why isn't my show listed on the home page anymore? It's still playing!
A: Again, it's a Blogger thing. Blogger allows only the 10 most recent posts or the 10 most recent days' worth of posts. Usually the former works better. Hey, it's a FREE site, so I'm not going to complain too much.

Q: I just posted a comment. Why doesn't it show up on the roll in the sidebar?
A: Again, it's a Blogger thing. Or, rather, a lack thereof. The sidebar roll of most recent comments is actually a hack that took me a long time to find and to get working. It's cool, but the drawback is that it only scans the page that it's on, collecting the 5 most recent comments made to the posts listed on that page (in this case, the 10 most recent posts that appear on the home page of the site). So it's not perfect because it won't capture a comment you make at this very moment to a show that's scrolled off the main page. But your comments are there, for anyone who uses the sidebar shortcuts to visit that show's page in the archives (which, incidentally, go back to the beginning of the site a couple years ago -- just click on the "season" links to see previous shows).

Q: What are these new "labels"?
A: Labels allow you to read all the posts made for a particular theater or topic. Click on "Artists Repertory Theatre" label and you'll see all the reviews of ART shows since Followspot started. This is actually a new Blogger feature that makes sense! We will still include a link to the theater's Web site at the beginning of the post. That part is a little confusing because they both appear like the same link, but aren't. Working on that.

Q: When are you coming to see my show?
A: When my homework is done.

Q: How do you decide which shows to review and when?
A: It's a convoluted formula weighing professional obligations to the Drammys and Just Out, with scheduling issues and personal interests and a desire to continue to see a real cross-section of theater in Portland.

Q: Who is frenchglen?
A: Figure it out yourself. It's not that hard. Or just enjoy some new mystery in the world. But, seriously, if you want to know, just ask.

Q: Will you post an announcement of my show or special benefit performance?
A: Sorry. I try my best to keep this site limited to local theater criticism and related events or topics. Try PDXBackstage and PDXOnstage, PATA and Theatre Vertigo's board for posts like that.

Any more questions? followspot@hotmail.com

OK -- back to Vanya ... And to help keep us on target, here are some of my personal rules of thumb:

What worked? What didn't? Why?

Praise what worked and give credit where credit is due.

Be forthright about what didn't work and explain why.

Be constructive.

Try 50 words -- what you lose in nuance, you clarify through distillation.

Use a thesaurus.

Write it fresh, then sleep on it.

Follow Spot said...

FYI: This show has been extended through March 4.

Anonymous said...

Saw Vanya last nite (2/28 ushering) - really good but left me feeling unmoved somehow. Hurt made some interesting choices that I don't necessarily agree with but they were brave choices and I respect that. Aside from the rather annoying accent (think Australian/British/Harvard hybrid) I thought Hurt's girlfriend wasn't as bad as the reviews said - I actually rather liked her. I had no problems believing that she was the flame attracting the moths. Valerie made a wonderful Sonya, but I thought she was neglected. She had some great potential moments but they felt rushed. Perhaps this was a directorial choice? I liked Allen - again, not how I saw the character but he made brave choices. However, I ended up just wanting to slap Vanya instead of feeling any pity or empathy for him. Supporting cast was good, I especially liked the actor playing Waffles. I did the show 100 years ago and I can't even remember that character but this actor added some depth that made his performance memorable. Overall, even though the show felt rushed to me and I wanted to feel more empathy for the characters, I still recommend it for the nice ensemble work. If you can afford it. -Victoria Blake

Follow Spot said...

Posted by Followspot March 2, 2007; closes March 4, 2007

Who knew 1928 Canadian Chekhov could be so fresh, inviting? Score one for Tom Wood’s script adaptation. William Hurt naturally outstanding. Remaining cast all over map – not unlike distracting accents: from trying hard, to trying too hard, to hardly-trying to simply trying. Well-toned technical elements, especially Gordon Pearlman’s clear-cut lighting.

Anonymous said...

Saw it last night; awful. Some parts (Vanya’s sprawling, ridiculous third-act denouement: gesture, screech at Astrov, gesture, run to Sonia, gesture, screech, repeat) might originally have had power, but in general directorial hand where present incompetent. Strange stylized world where people sit in chairs and stare at whoever is talking, waiting for what? “Don’t leave me with him” Act II typical: both women sitting down, not going anywhere. Or “I’m tired” and other similar lines, treated simply as opportunities to express existential angst. Taken as given that people were onstage as long as they had lines in the scene; no one tried to rock the boat and exit, opting instead for tension-free sitting, standing, staring. The one exception, the morphine scene, counted as one of the few riveting scenes in the play. All we see is characters and words floating around doing nothing complaing about how work has made their lives hell, and in the end it turns out work is actually a syrupy balm that’ll make their lives better. I didn’t believe it for a second, and the director didn’t give me any reason to, either.

Anonymous said...

JoAnn Johnson, the director, had an impossible task directing William Hurt. One day he would demand blocking, the next he would rail against it... I'm not saying he's not a forceful presence onstage, but he made rehearsals more dramatic, chaotic and unbearably tense than the production. He also made Elena a sobbing mess on more than one occasion. Johnson's an excellent director -- when she's got a cast willing to take direction!

Anonymous said...

I can see Hurt affecting some of the moments I mentioned, but beyond those moments the overall shape of the play was confused and haphazard, a problem compounded by the shallowness of the various actors' internal life. It wasn't that people were in different worlds, or in their own world; it was that everyone was in a bland shared world, occasionally popping out from it into emotions or desires. At the very end, Vanya and Sonia are working on the accounts, and Sonia starts talking, and Vanya looks up and listens without much reaction, and nothing was happening. Not "nothing was happening, but everything was happening"; nothing was happening aside from static postures of listening and a static Sonia talking. The actors who weren't talking were either listening or not listening, nothing more than that binary, and providing that more was Johnson's job.