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I think the Russians are out to get me. Actually, that’s just a good sentence and it is semi-appropriate to the topic, which is Chekhov and Uncle Vanya, which I saw last night with Syd.

Chekhov has been, up to now, one of the gaps in my knowledge. I know of his work, but had never read any of his plays or stories or seen any of his work performed. This is probably because I found out he existed after my Russian phase, in which I read many of the usual suspects: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Fathers and Sons. Several novels in, I discovered that really, nothing much happy ever happens. I decided that I was depressed enough in my own nature and didn’t need any more help in that direction. If the Russian equivalent of the screwball comedy exists, I haven’t heard of it.

Not that Uncle Vanya wasn’t funny. There were plenty of times when I laughed hard and out loud. But the play ends with Sonya’s acceptance of her misery and her extremely bleak hope of a better life after death that I might have felt more cheerful had one or more of the characters actually killed themselves or each other. The very laughter is tinged with hopelessness.

Today I think I’ll watch Mary Poppins. That should be enough of an antidote. Or I could give those Russians a dose of Napoleon, in the form of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 21st, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
I went last week. I thought it was a great production, exceptionally well cast even by CalShakes' high standards. The program had an article (actually more than one, I think) about how Chekhov thought of his plays as comedies, which made me think that either he had a very dark sense of humor, or else Russians have their baseline humor-meter set all the way over to one side.

The production did a good job of bringing the comedy out in a form that is recognizable to contemporary American audiences.
Aug. 22nd, 2008 11:18 am (UTC)
Well, yes...
The production was fabulous. I loved the set and the acting rocked. (It was particularly fun to see Barbara Oliver, whose husband was one of my professors and whom I occasionally see in church on Sunday. Her sister used to be my neighbor... I knew she had a theater background, but had no idea she was so darn hilarious!) In fact, the production was so good that what amazed me was the play. I did skim some of the stuff in the program, and did, as I said, laugh, but even with my large capacity for graveyard humor, that was one depressing play.
Aug. 21st, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
The Gershwins warned us.

They're writing songs of love, but not for me . . .
With love to lead the way
I've found more skies of gray
Than any Russian play
Could guarantee . . .
Aug. 22nd, 2008 11:21 am (UTC)
If only...
I were better educated in music. I'd have been prepared. Although unless it is ballet, I pretty much assume if Russian, then depressing. Oh well.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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