“You know, I used to think that being a creep meant you were sick or abnormal, but lately I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all creeps. Everyone in the world, behaving naturally, is a complete creep.”

Playwright Annie Baker and director Sam Gold (The Aliens, Circle Mirror Transformation) reunite to stage an intimate and immersive version of Chekhov’s masterwork.

Featuring (L to R): Peter Friedman, Maria Dizzia, Rebecca Schull, Paul Thureen, Reed Birney, Matthew Maher, Georgia Engel, Michael Shannon and Merritt Wever.

Literal Translation by Margarita Shalina; Set Design by Andrew Lieberman; Costume Design by Annie Baker; Lighting Design by Mark Barton; Sound Design by Matt Tierney; Props by Kate Foster; Production Stage Manager, Christina Lowe; Casting Director, Jack Doulin, C.S.A.

Tue-Sun 7:30pm
Sat 3:00pm

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44 Responses to “Uncle Vanya”

  1. Edgar Franceschi says:

    Expansive,leisurely paced-and with some terrific acting-this Vanya built up to a very moving finale.The clever A-frame house set brought back memoriesof Jerry Rojo/Richard Schechner’s environmental sets at the Performing Garage(The Performance Group before it became The Wooster group) so many years ago.For this Vanya I sat in a modifed “lotus pose”(thank you yoga classes) for the entire performance; there was very little room to sit any other way.Sam Gold is such an extraordinary talent: this is the third production of his that I’ve seen.Each one has been unique and totally satisfying.His Three Penny Opera staging at the Julliard School was one of the great theatrical experiences of my life.I still can’t get it out of my mind.
    After this Vanya, it’s going to be impossible to for me to sit through any old fashioned staging of Chekhov-with -moth-balls(aspirational English accents,real samovars,etc.).This Vanya was riveting and liberating.

  2. Suzanne Bertish says:

    A stunning production and version of a great play
    There are endless productions of Chekov
    mostly vanity productions
    This surely is what the great playwright Chekov inteneded
    And why these plays are WORTH doing.

  3. […] admin | Categories: Uncategorized Michael will be doing the play Uncle Vanya at the Soho Rep in New York on the 7th June-15th July 2012 /* […]

  4. Michael Pinker says:

    An astonishingly intimate performance which grew as the play developed. Witnessing the actors from such a vantage, one almost felt oneself a character, as if it might be possible to reach out to comfort Sonya and her poor uncle, admonish Astrov to come off it, truly to see oneself in the mirror which this informal glimpse of our human vulnerability rendered so heartbreakingly beautiful. I used to think that Vanya on 42nd Street was the last word, but this production was certainly its equal, even surpassing it in the small space and proximity to the action. I should have preferred period costumes–after all, these people were gentry–, but that aside, to have been present to feel Sonya’s tenderness and bewilderment, her uncle’s impassioned helplessness, the Doctor’s explanation of his feeling for the environment, even the buffoonery of the Professor–first rate! Salut!

  5. this production of VANYA, while really fascinating, tends to get vocally and physically monotonous. these people are so utterly bored because their way of life is vanishing, and the russian revolution is around the corner. none of that immediacy is in the acting, as good as everyone is. there seems to be no pressure of a changing society, no sense of life on that estate, although sonya talks about how difficult it is to make a living. the sub text might surely be a sense of panic that they are losing – have already lost – a privileged way of life. i deeply admire the director’s choice – his view of the production – i did feel that it could have been just a little better, but i was very happy to have seem it.

  6. myra nissen says:

    We were sitting in the front row where the small table and lamp were in the first act. When the conversation was at the other end we couldn’t hear it. Also we missed Sonya’s last beautiful speech at the table with Vanya and Marina. It was as if she was whispering…missed the whole thing. It’s one thing to have an intimate conversation but actors should project so the audience can hear. We enjoyed the play, especially the acting–everyone, except Sonya’s voice got really monotonous. And of course we couldn’t see the doctor at the end because he was practically off set.

  7. Will MacAdam says:

    It was well worth the torture of the misconceived seating concept (The same thing could have been accomplished with risers and chairs, but surely Annie and Sam are only too aware of that by now) to be in such close proximity to such an exquisite display of naturalistic acting. At one point I was two feet from Michael Shannon, and I got it, he was forcing nothing, he was LETTING it, and trusting it would be enough, HE would be enough. It was not acting, it was BEING. Something few artists rarely achieve, but for him, the norm. Breathtaking! And for me, as a fellow thespian, very humbling. My deepest gratitude to everyone involved.

  8. Great production of a great play. I was sitting near the end where the scene in which Sonya attempts to profess her love and to get Astrov to stop drinking and it was breathtaking. Lots of moments like that. Bold to make the play so colloquial–but a bold move that paid off. Wonderful work from a wonderful playwright

  9. Let me add to my previous comment.; Two wonderful playwrights–Chekhov, the master and Annie Baker, his faithful and talented-in-her-own-right translator.

  10. Robert Pearlstein says:

    I enjoyed this innovative, intimate, wonderfully acted “Uncle Vanya,” with a terrific translation .(1) Being so close brought one into the immediacy of the text and I found myself sitting, occasionally with my eyes shut, just listening to the words and feeling the piercing sadness in the hearts of these characters. I would have liked, however, a little more costume “design” or clothing detail (e.g. a few peasant neck shirts/tunic tops or embroidered detail jackets to create a Russian flavor). (2) Are the audience members sufficiently forewarned about the tiered setting whereby–if they are on the 2nd or 3rd cushioned tiers, they have to fold their legs and cannot extend them–could be a potential problem for those arriving right before the curtain and getting stuck in those locations. I luckily sat on the front row right behind the vodka table. I felt llike patting Michael Shannon on the back and saying, ” Don’t worry, Astrov. Life gets better.” (3) It would be interesting one day to see a rep company do a play like “Vanya” where the actors playing Vanya and Astrov alternate these two roles, as Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson did at the old Vic in the 1960’s. This was a wonderful evening.

  11. bob h says:

    Yes, “intimate” is the right word for this production. The play registered with me in a way that numerous previous prior productions never did. Terrific cast. Please consider keeping the living-room-like seating arrangements for future plays.

  12. Sara Hartley says:

    While this production generated much thought & new feelings- it also drew critiques. Some actor friends missed the intensity & passion that must be palpable- even if a faint remnant – to frame the longing for lost things. Sexual desire was palpable, but Astrov’s adamance about the land as well as his heart as a physician were not haunted by his past passion. Shannon was indeed a compelling authentic presence, but stuck at one note– rather like ‘burn out’ — as though nothing much had been lost.
    I agree with previous comments admiring Sonya’s attentive scene with the doctor, but Weaver seemed lost in her final speech. It was deadened without the necessary veneer of hope. ..the promise of ‘rest’ was primarily offered in unmitigated despair.
    Baker’s words were astute but the modern dress almost distracting.
    In the end- it was the clarity of Reed Birney’s Vanya that proved the true stand out, as well as the need to adapt as an audience, to enter in, to experience actors/characters so nearby, to wonder how they kept their heads.

  13. Jordan Baker says:

    Thank you for that wonderful evening in the theatre. I loved the intimacy of the audience and the actors. From the moment I entered the space the energy was elegant and comfortable and I loved the humor of it all — everything felt unexpected to me and I was excited to disappear with the actors and the audience — we were all one last night! MORE!!!

  14. Myra Malkin says:

    Enjoyed the production in spite of the seating, which is saying something (might be nice to warn people before they’ve already bought their tickets). The small space made it possible for actors to speak softly, and I liked the pace very much; long, convincing pauses. Although a dimension of the play is lost when it’s performed in jeans, the modern dress played as “without costumes,” and the play got across anyway. (I think it’s possible to like a production like this without putting down productions that use period costumes and less colloquial language; it’s bad acting and directing that make a performance seem mothball-y. And as far as I could see, the samovar was a real samovar, and why not?) At the Soho Rep, my only serious objection was to the very end. Chekhov provides for a drop-dead final curtain (the pool of light in the darkness, Sonya’s lines, the silence, the little scratches of sound in the darkness, FADE OUT). Telyegin is “strumming” on his guitar, yes, but I think that sound should be in the background — very, very soft, not interfering with the power of the silence and the almost-darkness. The long rendition of some noisy Russian tune is quite different, and for me it ruined the end. The women all very good. The actress who played Sonya is very pretty indeed, but her youthfulness and slight plumpness made it believable that Astrov wasn’t smitten; in so many productions, Sonya has conventional film-star prettiness. This Astrov, though obviously a good actor, seemed too young for the part, too loose, and with insufficient intellectual passion.

  15. Charlie says:

    I enjoyed the show a great deal. As an acting teacher here in NYC at a two year Meisner conservatory, i appreciated the simplicity and truth. BUT, I WAS VERY MUCH PUT OFF BY THE CURTAIN CALL. Many actors seemed to be completely uninterested in receiving our gratitude. It was very off putting. The curtain call is our opportunity to thank you. After a great show, I ended up leaving quite offended.

    • Lisa says:

      I LOVED this production. Was just in a puddle of tears at the end. As such, was eager to in some way convey my gratitude to the cast. But I have to agree with Charlie. The actors seems absolutely uninterested in the audience and what we had to offer by way of “thanks.”

  16. tim jackson says:

    The ‘intimate seating’ is without question a genius stroke. The contemporary conversational rhythms, silences, and body language that Annie Baker and Sam Gold understand so beautifully were delivered flawlessly by this drop dead perfect cast. Each character was so clearly defined and, with no ‘period’ clothing to distance us, it felt as though we were privy to watching with the intimacy of a home gathering. This nearly voyeuristic participation had the amazing result of allowing characters to become even more universal than more ‘traditionally’ staged versions. I saw my family and relatives before my eyes. Maybe it’s age and experience that also deepens Chekhov, but the play was transformative. This is why we return to the theater over and over – once in a while it blows your mind. Thank you Soho Rep.

  17. I can offer no greater reflection of the play’s impact and that of the players than to say:
    I inhabit my truer self — spirit, soul, heart — more fully for having witnessed the gift of ‘Uncle Vanya’ last Saturday afternoon, July 14.

  18. Mark Fedder says:


    I just got to terms that the extended run of Uncle Vanya at the SOHO REP. is sold out…(good for you)!!!
    …it took me a while to get over that fact…
    Coming home today what did I find in my mailbox? A flyer from SOHO REP. telling me that the production has extended…now that is just putting salt in my wound…)-:
    Is it possible to get a ticket from the cancellation line? How early do I have to come?
    Will the production extend again?

    Thank you,

    • Soho Rep. says:

      I would come as early as possible. Hard to give an exact time. Perhaps a couple hours before if you really want to see it? Good luck!
      –Soho Rep

  19. […] Chekhov’s characters number nine, though some have little to do—he cared less for casting costs than today’s American playwrights usually must—and Baker hasn’t cut a soul. Nor are there any star turns among the players. If you notice differences among them—more moment-to-moment details from Michael Shannon’s Astrov, say, or a special satiric edge from Peter Friedman’s professor—that’s only because actors are different, and in close quarters their styles and qualities become more tangible. The finely polished ensemble effect of this cast is lovely to see. It’s just another of the many beauties in Soho Rep’s Vanya. tickets […]

  20. […] There are new essays by Jennifer Cayer on Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya, now at Soho Rep through the end of August, and by Susan Kattwinkel on Mike Daisey’s new monologue (“The […]

  21. Frank Kelly says:

    I bought a seat for last night’s performance but I ended up not attending. The predicted stormy weather was a factor (I live on Long Island) but a greater one was my realization (I don’t know why it took me quite so long) that — as I understand it — I would be sitting with no back support for 2 and a half hours. It was NOT just a guesstimate that I would find this hard to take — I’d had severe pain during the 90 minutes of COCK! So, chalk it up to a failure of … nerve, OR acceptance of the limitations of age (I’m 67). I don’t regret spending the money for the ticket; such enterprises deserve support. Failing some recording of this production, guess I’ll have to settle for imagining THIS cast in Louis Malle’s film of Andre Gregory’s VANYA ON 42nd STREET!

  22. merrill goldstein says:

    this production was wonderful, slow to build but rightfully so and devastating, exquisite at moments that leave you aching for the characters and ourselves.

  23. Signe Hammer says:

    An astonishing production that the audience inhabits, too; I have never felt so richly entangled in the performance of a play. Even now, the day after, the play continues to reveal itself to me as, in memory and imagination, it engages with my own life.

  24. dbjmc says:

    Absolutely wonderful production. Only flaw, and it’s a HUGE one, was the seating concept. I guess it’s an interesting idea on paper to have the audience seated crosslegged on risers but the reality of it was excruciatingly uncomfortable and seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the play. I’m sure the director could have achieved the same desired intimacy by allowing us to sit on chairs. Intellectually and emotionally I was fully appreciating the beautiful pacing of act 4, but my aching butt and cramped legs were screaming at me. I would have a hard time recommending this to any of my middle-aged friends because the discomfort was so severe. My partner was still suffering hours after the show. Why, Soho Rep, why???? Why mar such a beautiful, stunning production????? Your cast should be offended that you have created such an obstacle to the appreciation of their truly glorious work.

  25. Marat Elkanidze says:

    Reed Birney is wonderful, thinking on stage actor…
    Unfortunately everything else is amateur-ish (please no offense, but that is the essence of what was happening on stage)…

  26. Chekhov is smiling. It wasn’t all for nothing after all…you made me, for one, feel the clarity of despair without loss of hope in humanity…Bravo!

  27. misha harnick says:

    It was a marvelous production of my very favorite play (and I have seen close to a dozen Vanyas) clearly inspired by Vanya on 42nd street, which is fine, considering that that is my favorite manifestation of this play. It was totally absorbing, and I was even able to forget the uncomfortable seating (though a bit more bearable than at The Cock! — thank you!) Vanya and Sonya particularly were excellent. I was not happy with Astrov, although Michael Shannon is typically very good: were his teeth falling out? Certainly I never thought that Astrov’s did.

    The one thing that I disliked intensely was the “musical entertainment” during the intermission and the moment the house went dark at the end . it felt like a crude slap in the face: had nothing to do with what we just saw, and it was very loud. After all, one wants to savor the wonderful experience one just had. CUT the music all together!

  28. DAVID SAFIR says:

    THIS “Uncle Vanya” adaptation is a joke. Sam Gold and Ann Baker have no clue of what Chekhov is about. Astrov is portrayed as a sorrow looser. No way, he can inspire love and passion from an intelligent beauty like Elena. Actress playing Elena failed to show how her heroine can draw such a passion from man. As to Uncle Vanya, at the beginning, he is portrayed as a first grade cynic. This character will never cry to his mother and ask for help as he did later in the play. These are just some of the observations. Unfortinately, most American adaptations of Chekhov plays have little in common with real Chekhov. For those of you who want to see what real Chekhov is about, I advise to see Lev Dodin’s productions. He brings his plays from Petersburg to BAM once in a while.

  29. BCD says:

    I thought that the production was about as perfect as a production can be; I’m still obsessing over it hours later.

    I do feel the odd need (I mean, it’s not as if this hugely successful and popular production needs extra support, but nonetheless) to defend the evening against two of the complaints lodged in other comments:

    1. Yes, of course, no single audience member can see every moment of the play face-on: That’s clearly intentional. But I wasn’t bothered by that for a second. First, I could always peer at an angle to see almost every square inch of the theater. And if I couldn’t see a face, I could certainly hear a voice. And for every major speech or moment that I might have been at a “disadvantage,” I could revel in watching the unspoken reactions of the other actors. For me, this was win win win.

    2. I am not young, and I have a notoriously bad back, with a recent surgery to my credit. I couldn’t have been more comfortable for the full evening. You extend your legs, you cross your legs, you lean forward, you sit back. It’s not especially complicated.

  30. […] just saw the Soho Rep’s production of Uncle Vanya with Michael Shannon and Merritt Weaver.  The show has just the right understated, […]

  31. Vanya says:

    This was Chekhov on anti-depressants, a performance at odds with the witty and feeling exchanges one finds in Chekhov plays. Too many of the performers seem to have been sleep reading their lines without feeling for what was said or for the interchange with their partners. Come now, Dr. Astrov had some feeling about his work (forests and doctoring), just as Chekhov did. You wouldn’t know that Chekov had multiple messages in this play; the droll performance hides them. And, really, American farm clothes don’t sit well with 19th-century Russian conversation. And didn’t the director realize that the daughter’s final rationalization was at odds with what Chekhov’s existentialism feelings were (if not expressed in its later codification). She fumbled (swallowed) these lines. (And she should have been younger than her father’s new wife; she wasn’t.) The wife was overly mechanical in her body movements. In this play, Chekhov had no winners. And this production followed suit.

  32. […] but must close August 26. If you’re inclined to order tickets, don’t wait but go here. Share this:PrintEmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  33. Rich Lamon says:

    Beautifully conceived and performed, and perfectly capturing the play’s essence. This production is, among many other things, a testament to the ways in which, with the barest minimum of props/set, great writing and acting can attain grace.

  34. Susan Barnes Walker says:

    Immense gratitude for the last $.99 Sunday ticket yesterday…possibly favorite play by my favorite playwright, & so many moments in this production unlike any other I had seen/played/imagined for this…beautiful. Thank you, all of you!

  35. Julian says:

    I waited on line for both performances on Saturday, but did not get in. Is there any chance this production will be extended again?

  36. Zach Wegner says:

    My jaw is still open a day later. All I want is a time machine to go and buy everyone I know a ticket to this. Sad it’s ending.

  37. Lovely, intimate, truthful, inventive, an ensemble cast of terrific actors. No pretense at all. The best Vanya i’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen about 10.

  38. DL says:

    I really loved it, even though I’m glad it’s not the only production of this play I’ve ever seen. Very occasionally, the conversation-level performances work against the intention of the text, but mostly, the payoff is enormous, and the opportunity to be feet away from the “action” is revelatory. The whole cast is strong, but I have to single out, in particular, the mesmerizing work of Michael Shannon and Merritt Wever (their scene in Act Two was my favorite, as well). He squints through palpable pain and you feel a world of stifled longing in his smallest choices. Her performance blooms in gorgeous, melancholy hues as the evening moves on. For me, they took best advantage of the stripped-down aesthetic of this production, though there is not a weak actor in the cast, and everyone is certainly living in the same claustrophobic space–which we’re lucky enough to inhabit as well. I felt very fortunate (and very moved) to have been able to see this.

  39. Irwin Fenichel says:

    My wife & I had a wonderful experience seeing this very innovative staging of Uncle Vanya. The entire cast was wonderful & they truly acted as an ensemble. The only problems we found, were the acoustics & sightlines. We had to sit up in the mezzanine, because, the legs of neither of us could have lasted for that long of a production in the special seating that was used. The problems we found were that when actors spoke in a low voice, especially when they stood or faced ithe direction at the other end from us, we really ciould not hear them at all & the bar supporting the seating in front of us caused us to very often awkwardly move our heads up, down, back & forth.

  40. loraine boyle says:

    Loved the intimacy of the production and the acting was superb. I felt as if I were living with those characters. Seating needs to be rethought. Unless you are a yoga devotee or meditator who can sit for long periods with legs crossed in front of you, it was exceedingly uncomfortable.
    Bleacher style works if your feet touch the floor…especially if you are over 50.

  41. Gil C says:

    My kind of theater. Intimate; much to see and hear. I found myself able to think about Chekov during the performance. Perhaps it is because it struck me as so precisely measured; so many important moments extended (often I think to accentuate the tedium of these lives.) I thought of Chekov and his abiding concern for disintegration and how that theme resonates through all of 20th and (so far) 21st century theater. The last scene, just stretching along, sending its message of hope (or, for me, desperation wearing the mask of hope). The directors subordinated the Chekovian notion of class struggle and showed us how these characters lived or did not live with each other as real people. Seating? I was lucky to be in an folding chair in the “loft”. I remember living rooms like that in the 70,s. Not surprised to hear some whining about it.

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