What we now call realism in the theatre began in the late 19th Century with Ibsen and Chekhov and technical changes in the way that productions were lit. Remarkably, the work of these playwrights still provide relevant commentary on contemporary life.
In the Denver Center Theatre Company's current production of Uncle Vanya, director Anthony Powell wisely balances Chekhov's fine humor with the serious existential questions he raises. How telling that on the day the President of the United States calls for stepped up depletion of our natural resources Chekhov is pleading from a distance of one hundred years for the preservation of our forests and rivers.
Chekhov's characters, too, continue to surprise us with their unexpected wrinkles. Jamie Horton is in fine form expertly navigating the demanding role of Uncle Vanya, full of joy and poetry one moment and filled with despair the next. He is consoled by his long-time friend Astrov who, in the hands of John Hutton, ranges from cool intellectual inquiry to a cauldron of passion. Much of their angst is generated by their unrequited love for Gordana Roshovich's lovely Yelena, whose unfulfilled desire is held in check by her moral suasion and, at times, utter boredom. Finally, Kate Levy is wonderous as Checkov's heroine, Sonya, with her youthful idealism and stoic commitment. Standout character work as well by Mark Rubald and Kathy Brady.
In this detailed and well thought out production, Anton Chekhov holds up a polished mirror unclouded by the distance of a century, pleading with us to care enough to take our personal and collective fate into our own hands and stop blaming anyone else for our problems. Humankind's instinctive and egotistical behavior and unrepentant materialism may have only gotten worse in the interim, but thankfully Chekhov's voice has only gotten stronger.
The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Uncle Vanya runs through June 16th. 303-893-4100.