This production features the words of Anton Chekhov in his native tongue and, through the use of technology, allows English-speaking audiences to hear the words as they were written with one ear while receiving the line-by-line translations with the other.
Konchalovsky's interpretation of Vanya is fairly traditional, with welcomed acknowledgements of the dark humor that Chekhov intended, shading these classic characters in the pale light of their existence while encouraging us to laugh at their depressing banality. At moments he fails to induce the emotional, human connection between the people on stage, but he succeeds in pulling stunning personal performances from each individual actor.
Alexander Domogarov is a noticeable stand-out in the role of Mikhail Astrov, the country doctor of deep convictions and fatal premonitions. Domogarov fashions his performance so as to perfectly match the arc of the play, presenting us with the basic surface of the character at first followed by the inklings of aspiration that then all prove to be underwritten with utter hopelessness and defeat. Domogarov punctuates this progression with a haunting dead stare that looks out on a bleak future, pulling Astrov from the present. This stare alone encapsulates much of what the play is about and requires no translation. Julia Vysotskaya combines with Domogarov to compose the other half of the play's heart as Sonya, Vanya's niece. Vysotskaya silently seethes with unrequited love, erupting only twice to pour forth the deep sorrow lurking beneath the pleasant exterior of these seemingly uneventful lives. Sonya's pain is centered in the troubling consciousness inherent to our species, and Vysotskaya does a beautiful job of breathing it to life through Chekhov's words. Pavel Derevyanko works to match this duality of painful suppression and manic outburst while playing Vanya, succeeding more with the character's clownish exterior and erring a little on the overdone side with his explosions near the play's end. All cast members contribute fittingly and give generously in their moments.
For a touring production Vanya has a well-contained yet detailed set (designed by Konchalovsky), working to embody the themes of the piece by containing the majority of the action within a raised, wooden stage of passive color and texture, which the characters occasionally dare to venture down and away from, but never too far. In this manner Konchalovsky clearly presents both man's ability to see the beauty and potential of his own spiritual wings as well as the doubt and cowardice that prevent him from using them.
Aside from the bumbling confusion of a few drawn-out scene changes, performed by an unwitting army of unorganized stagehands (the stage manager herself unknowingly provided some of the performance's most comic moments), and the odd employment of out-of-place projections showing scenes of modern street traffic during the scene changes, this is one very solid production of a great classic.