POSTED Wed. Nov 11, 2015

Creative Culture

When Chekhov Met the Millennials
Cree McCree
Written by CREE MCCREE
SHARE

What if today’s Millennials were reincarnated as Chekhov characters from the turn of the last century, and their lives examined with the scientific scrutiny normally reserved for the ancient Etruscans or a remote Amazon tribe?

That’s the highly original premise of Uncle Vanya: Quarter-Life Crisis, presented by Goat in the Road Productions and Momma Tried magazine as part of the Faux Real festival, which continues its run at the Ether Dome at 3625 St. Claude Ave for the next two weekends (Thursday-Sunday, 8pm).

A “live exhibit” in four acts, Vanya comes complete with its own exquisitely detailed dollhouse replica of the Voynitsky Estate (the fictionalized manor where the play is performed); a Voynitsky Collection of artifacts and ephemera; and an elaborate guidebook to the “psychological archaeology” of an angst-ridden group of young adults holed up in a St. Francisville mansion circa 2009, where they’re trying to code their way out of the recession with a startup website while sponging off their slightly older benefactor.

The inner world of these characters is revealed through archival objects displayed in museum-style glass cases in the Ether Dome lobby. Prayer cards, cassette tapes, cocktail umbrellas, matchbooks, ticket stubs, pot pipes, and other random artifacts are carefully catalogued and annotated, along with handwritten letters and confessional journal entries.

Curated by Momma Tried, and collected from members of the cast, these objets d’art and personal memorabilia set the tone for the “live exhibit” that follows on an artfully cluttered stage set designed by Joan Long.

Ditto the tiny objects handcrafted for the Voynitsky dollhouse by Momma Tried’s Theo Eliezer and Micah Learned. From the micro Tarot cards scattered on the floor to the teensy-weensy board games to the itsy-bitsy Bikini Kill poster to the thumbnail-sized macrame hanging plants in the bathroom, every mundane detail is sublimely executed.

Lined with photo portraits of cast members shot inside the miniature rooms, the Voynitsky lobby installation is worth the price of admission itself. Be sure to get there early to pick up clues to the “live exhibit” that awaits you in the theater, where a “tour guide” serves as a wayback machine that transports the audience to 2009.

In a hilarious opening monologue, the guide (supposedly from 2109) explains archaic 2009 artifacts like videotapes and power cords, and offers footnotes about the characters we’re about to see, like the generation’s fondness for music of the early ’90s. (Thus the pre-show soundtrack of Nirvana and Spin Doctors.)

Then he asks to close our eyes, and poof! Uncle Vanya comes to life.

Chekhov’s basic premise remains the same: A friends-and-family group of neurotic intellectuals are living in a rural estate helmed by a retired professor, whose decision to sell the house precipitates a climactic confrontation late in the third act.

Before that pivotal moment, not much happens; characters bemoan their frustrated hopes and wasted lives while playing a game of psychosexual musical chairs. And, just like Chekhov, director/lead adapter Chris Kamenstein plays much of Vanya’s morass of meaninglessness for laughs.

Where Chekhov takes potshots at a dying aristocracy, Kamenstein casts a cold eye on entitled millennials of the startup generation, who “want everything we do to be the most everything.” He also updates the play with a gender fluidity that adds another layer of intrigue to the plot.

The elderly male professor of Chekhov’s play becomes Alexandra, a 30-something feminist who was downsized from the University of Chicago and lost her first wife, Vera, to cancer. Her much-younger consort is now Yelene, a glam ambisexual fashionista and former student of the professor.

Fabulously bored Yelene besots both the titular Uncle Vanya (so named for his “bad fashion sense”) and manic wetlands activist Dr. Astrov, who commutes to St. Francisville on his motorcycle after all-night shifts in a New Orleans emergency room. Meanwhile, Vanya’s sister Sonya, the emotional heart of the play, pines unrequitedly for Astrov.

Maria, Marina and house techie Waffles also ride the Real World carousel of Vanya, fueled by cheeseballs, whiskey, the occasional pot of tea and endless circuitous discussions.

Not since the first season of Girls has so much attention been paid to the minutiae of the day-to-day lives of millennials, their self-absorption, and their constantly shifting sexual alliances.

As a big Girls fan, I mean that as high praise.

But not to worry, Lena Dunham haters. Uncle Vanya constructs its own hermetic universe. And a fascinating one it is, brought to life by an exceptionally talented troupe of players.

Vanya 2.0 may not be as timeless as Chekhov, nor was it meant to be. But this cleverly reimagined version strikes some very universal human chords. It is a paean to the little things that make life meaningful, even when it feels like it’s not.

Uncle Vanya: Quarter-Life Crisis runs Thursday-Sunday, November 12-15 and 19-22, at 8pm at the Ether Dome, 3625 St. Claude Avenue. Doors and installation open at 7 pm. You can also view the Voynitsky Collection at a free reception hosted by Momma Tried on Wednesday, Nov 18, 7:30-9:30pm Check out Goat in the Road for more info, and to buy tickets ($20)._

Above image by Momma Tried magazine.

POSTED Dec 14, 2018

Atmosphere

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED May 10, 2017

Creative Culture

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Carnival Redux at the New Orleans Museum of Art

On May 12 the New Orleans Museum of Art will fling open its doors for Masquerade: Late Night at NOMA, a costume party replete with float builders, mask-makers,…....
CONTINUE

Written by DAVID JOHNSON
POSTED Dec 23, 2016

Atmosphere

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Some Holiday Music for the Weekend

Happy holidays, y’all. We hope you find plenty to occupy you during this busy Christmas weekend, but if you find yourself having a small, quiet moment, or just…....
CONTINUE

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 21, 2016

Creative Culture

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

A Native New Orleanian's Retrospective at NOMA

Imagine doing something you love for seventy years. Many people aren’t lucky enough to live that long, much less put their heart and soul into their passion projects…....
CONTINUE

Written by FRITZ ESKER
PAGE

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

    WWNO

    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

    NOMA

    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

    X

    Thanks.

    was added to your favorites.

    VIEW YOUR PROFILE

     


    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook