Late reviews from Luminato: BEARING and UNCLE VANYA

by Lynn on July 2, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

Luminato’s schedule and mine being what they were, I was only able to see these two shows on their last day. Then off to London, England for more theatre for me, a dead computer and internet cafes. Enough whining.


At the Joey and toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, Toronto, Ont.
By Signal Theatre
Co-Director and Co-Creator, Michael Greyeyes
Co-Director and Co-Creator, Yvette Nolan
Musical Director, Gregory Oh
Lighting by Michelle Ramsay
Costumes by Joanna Yu
Projection design by Laura Warren
Performers: Marion Newman
Irvin Chow
Aria Evans
Ceinwen Gobert
Ana Groppler
Louse Laberge-Cote
Daniel McArthur
Sophie Merasty
Brandon Oakes
Jullian Peever

A moving dance piece that re-examines the Indigenous experience by teaching a group of Canadians what that meant.

Co-directors and creators, Michael Greyeyes and Yvette Nolan have created a gripping, moving piece in three parts in which Canadians, reluctant to address what happened to Indigenous people in residential schools are faced with their actions, put in the position and clothing of Indigenous people and learn, in a sense, what happened to those people. They come out of the experience, wiser and more aware than they were before. A dialogue between the Canadians and the Indigenous people is now possible.

The piece has a huge sweep to it and details that will take your breath away. A priest sexually abuses a young Indigenous girl. Just outside of the scene on the edges are two witnesses. One witness, a man sitting in a chair, turns to the other witness and puts his finger up to his lips indicating to say nothing. Chilling. Anger, despair and sadness suffuse the piece. But there is an effort for reconciliation that is hopeful. Terrific piece.

Uncle Vanya

At the John Bassett Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

From the Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia
Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Rimas Tuminas
The idea (???), literary composition and staging by Rimas Tuminas
Set and costumes by Adomas Yatsovskis
Music by Faustas Latenas
Lighting Maya Shavdatuashvili
Sound by Ruslan Knushevitsky
Cast: Vladimir Simonov
Anna Dubrovskaya
Eugenia Kregzhde
Liudmila Maksakova
Sergey Makovetskiy
Artur Ivanov
Yury Kraskov
Inna Alabina
Sergey Epishev

The longest, most pretentious production of Uncle Vanya I have ever seen.

Sonya and her Uncle Vanya tend to the estate of Aleksandr Serebryakov, Sonya’s father from his first marriage. He’s a pompous professor. Serebryakov and his second wife Elena come for a visit and everyone is in a tizzy, especially Dr. Astrov, who seems to be tired tending the sick and drinking vodka. The men are smitten by Elena. Sonya loves Dr. Astrov from afar but he doesn’t notice.

The play is full of desperate emotions, unrequited love and all its attendant angst, drudgery, resolve and work.
It is clear from the first ponderous entrance of Serebryakov and his entourage, from Elena rolling a hoola hoop between Uncle Vanya and Dr. Astrov, both vying for her attention, and all manner of annoying bits of attention grabbing business, that director Rimas Tuminas thinks he’s the star of the production. He has changed speeches and removed others (in this production, Sonya and Uncle Vanya don’t lament about work at the end).

In this production characters rarely look at each other when they are spoken to. They look out to the audience, looking blankly. The most evocative scene between Dr. Astrov and Elena, when he is showing her how the land has changed over the decades, is squandered with a lack of connection. Dr. Astrov says that she is bored without even looking at her. The audience doesn’t see any of the diagrams because what Elena is looking at is through some contraption.

Eugenia Kregzhde as Sonya is a bubble of unrequited emotion for Dr. Astrov, frustration at her lot in life, and effort to get through. Sergey Makovetskiy plays Ivan Petrovich Voynitsky (Uncle Vanya but you wouldn’t know it from the program). He is consumed with jealousy at the Professor, love for Elena, disappointment in life and raging emotions. Lovely performances.

It’s always interesting to see companies from other countries bring theatre here. The Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia has been celebrated in its travels, as has its director, Rimas Tuminas. One country’s brilliance is another country’s pretention.

Dreary. Pretentious. Ponderous. Self-important. Feh.

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