• Capsule Reviews

Uncle Vanya

May 6, 2024

by Ben Togut

A professor’s return to a country estate reignites old resentments in Uncle Vanya, now playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Back on Broadway with a star-studded cast and a new adaptation by Heidi Schreck, Uncle Vanya finds the humor and pathos in dysfunctional family relationships and breathes new life into Chekhkov’s classic.

Steve Carrell is at the top of his game as the titular Vanya, skillfully tackling Chekhov’s humor and turning a character usually played pathetic and self-pitying into someone lovable. Anika Noni Rose delivers a regal yet grounded performance as Elena, a woman who is keenly aware of how her beauty makes her appear untouchable. Rose is a joy to watch as she reveals Elena’s true character, advocating for a smitten Sonia (Alison Pill) and exposing her own vulnerabilities when she struggles to ward off a romance with Astrov (William Jackson Harper).

The set, by Mimi Lien, features familiar furniture and a giant mural of trees in the background, making the space feel intimate and expansive, while musical interludes by Andrew Bird add a warm, homespun quality to the production. Lighting design by Lap Chi Chu and Elizabeth Harper complements the mood of the play, shifting from candlelit family gatherings to stark, white lighting in the production’s final moments.