Chocolate, Chekhov, and Choices

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Oil on canvas. From t...

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Russian forests crash down under the axe, billions of trees are dying, the habitations of animals and birds are layed waste, rivers grow shallow and dry up, marvelous landscapes are disappearing forever…. Man is endowed with creativity in order to multiply that which has been given him; he has not created, but destroyed. There are fewer and fewer forests, rivers are drying up, wildlife has become extinct, the climate is ruined, and the earth is becoming ever poorer and uglier.” (Anton Chekhov,  Uncle Vanya)

Last night Nathan and I went to see Apollinaire Theatre’s production of Uncle Vanya, which Nathan designed and I helped paint.

Not a production shot, but you get the idea.

I am not all that fond of Anton Chekhov, having worked on at least two slo-o-www productions of The Cherry Orchard  and The Seagull. I think The Cherry Orchard was the first show I did in college, and I was the props person. In plays that center around domestic life on Russian estates, that means A LOT of props.

I appreciate the language and the symbolism and the messages of Chekhov, but I usually find productions leave a lot to be desired. Last night, however, I was pleasantly surprised. I still think it was completely depressing,  but the production itself was excellent. Perhaps the main difference came from seeing it done with professional, age appropriate actors, instead of college students. I also enjoyed the artistic premise which had the small audience (limited to 30 for the purposes of this production) moving from room to room in the old theater building (1906) as we follow the story of people struggling to survive and find happiness in their fading country estate.  In an article for the Boston Globe, John Kuntz, who gives an amazing performance in the title role said:

“We start in the biggest room, and as we work our way through the play, the rooms start getting close, until in the last act we’re all sort of intimately together in this room that’s pretty small,’’ says John Kuntz, who stars as Vanya. “I kind of like that idea, that sense of people being trapped on this estate.’’

They successfully brought us into the intimacy, the tension, and the sadness of this particular estate. Actually, my only complaint was that Act I and Act II (of this four act play) didn’t have a button at the end to indicate to the audience that the act was over. Instead, the house manager jumped up and said, “OK, that was the end . . . follow me to the next location,” or something to that effect. I found that to be jarring, by not enabling the audience to applaud or stay in the moment that we had been invited to so intimately.

Meanwhile, the play was full of words, as Chekhov’s plays usually are. This time, however, I found myself pondering the meaning and how they relate or don’t relate to our times. The above quote really hit home with me, as I reflect on the complete destruction humankind has wrought on the environment. Other things, struck me as well, particularly Uncle Vanya’s despair that his life was over at 47, where he had no hope of changing or finding any purpose. (I told you it was depressing). It made me think about how different the world is now. While I, at 43, struggle with what kind of changes I would like in my life, and how to live fully and completely, Vanya really had no hope for the future, and his niece, Sonya, had even less because she was “plain” (although I found the actress pretty) and would never find a husband, particularly not the man she loved.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

All in all, it was  delightful night at the theater, where I got to

  • celebrate my talented husband
  • eat a delicious meal beforehand
  • ponder the meaning of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness
  • think about the choices we have and the choices we cannot make
  • and leave with a decadent, Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar that Nathan bought at concessions.

I chose to eat that for breakfast this morning. 😉  Probably not the wisest choice of my life, but boy did it taste good.  I will, eventually, counteract it with something healthy and full of fiber, but once in a while, especially after watching a production filled with despair, it seems important to celebrate with a little bit of chocolate. Don’t you?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Life of Jamie
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 11:31:04

    One of my girlfriends used to say “sometimes you need to eat dessert first because you never know when you are going to croak during dinner.”


  2. thebestdigger
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 11:36:36

    Bah, Checov. Bravo, chocolate. It seems we still know what’s important, don’t we?!


  3. Kathryn McCullough
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 11:45:00

    Sounds like a delightful night at the theater! And you can’t beat chocolate first thing in the morning–the breakfast of champions, no doubt!

    Have a great trip, my friend. I can’t wait to hear all about it!



    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 30, 2011 @ 11:52:59

      I probably shouldn’t choose chocolate as my regular breakfast during the trip however. Of course, if I was going to France I would start the day off with a chocolate croissant. 😉

      Happy New Year, Kathy.



  4. Donna Jean
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 12:26:05

    I have always loved Chekhov. Perhaps because my first exposure was on the page and not on the college stage. I did finally see a Chekhov whose cast, set, and direction did it justice at Rhode Island College. It does make a difference to have age appropriate actors from the MFA program in the cast.


  5. creatingreciprocity
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 14:21:33

    Sounds like a balanced diet overall!


  6. Louise
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 16:29:47

    Yummy chocolate!



  7. thepetalpusher
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 20:16:02

    As long it was dark chocolate–you received anti-oxidants! ps Julia’s coming to NYC from across the pond in May. Let’s come up with a plan to meet up.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 31, 2011 @ 08:56:40

      Not dark. I was really bad. I could have had dark, but I wanted milk. 😉 We just need to get the specific dates from Julia and I’m on it. I already told Nathan I’m heading to NYC in May (even though we are going in February for something else).


  8. Barb
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 02:25:53

    Chocolate for breakfast…and it wasn’t coco puffs. You’re a decadent woman. Way to let the old year fade. Nice post.


  9. ifiwerebraveblog
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 08:51:58

    Remember, chocolate is the only thing to combat the effect of the Dementors.


  10. Andra Watkins
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 16:58:22

    Lisa, I’ve seen your comments so many places around the web. I’m glad I finally visited your blog. Chekov is one of those things we’re supposed to appreciate, but it’s hard, isn’t it? The production you attended sounds like the way to do it – very creative. Keeping people moving likely kept minds off the length, too.

    I found my way here through the We Blog page on FB. I am working my way through the regulars before I contribute anything. I look forward to getting to know you this year. I hope you enjoy your trip.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Jan 05, 2012 @ 07:46:35

      Welcome Andra, I will visit you when I am back in the US as I only have limited access right now (today I am at an internet cafe). Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to getting to know you as well.


  11. Rose
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 15:42:14

    I have long loved Russian literature and hated Chekhov. Being cast as a bird once in first year probably sealed the deal. You’ve intrigued me though. I do love my depressing works of art and hearing about this production has encouraged me to give Chekhov another chance. Sounds like a wonderful night followed by a deluxe breakfast 😀


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