WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW Vanya (Or, 'That's Life!')
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Sean Margaret Wagner
This article shared 1119 times since Tue Jan 10, 2017
Playwright: Lavina Jadhwani. At: Rasaka Theatre Company at The Edge Theatre, 5154 N. Broadway. Tickets: rasakatheatre.com; $15-$30. Runs through: Feb. 3
Rasaka Theatre Company offers a delightful new spin on an old Russian standby with their canny adaptation Vanya ( Or, "That's Life!" ). Director Kaiser Ahmed and author Lavina Jadhwani breathe a lot of modern language, modern music and casual fourth wall dismissal into Chekov's wistfully sad ode to wasting your life.
We traverse backward from the end of a months-long, tedious stay at Professor Alexander's ( Bill Chamberlain ) sprawling countryside estate, which is run by brother-in-law Vanya ( Rom Barkhordar ) and daughter Sonya ( Puja Mohindra ) in his absence. Alexander and his new wife Yelena ( Tiffany Renee Johnson ) would much rather sell the estate to fund a comfortable future in the city, but must contend with their despondent family, the amorous Doctor Astrov ( Richard Costes ), and disgruntled house staff ( Allison Cain and Raj Bond ). All of the denizens of this estate walk back their deepest wants and regrets as the clocks tick backwards, allowing us to experience their warmness and fondness only at the 11th hour ( or would it be the first hour, technically? ).
Because the characters are aware they are being observed through this revisit of their unraveling, they are hoping they can persuade us to abandon the story for a song or an aside. For instance, in a last ditch effort, Abramov, played and signed winningly by deaf actor Richard Costes, begs us not to make him go through with dismissing perpetually lovelorn Sonya. Alas, even our interceding can't change the script. Raj Bond as Waffles strums almost too appropriate top-40 songs, maybe in the hopes that Kelly Clarkson & Sheryl Crow might have some advice to stop their downward spiral.
The cast is the perfect mix of weird and extraordinary talent, evoking Chekov's original menagerie of nervous wrecks and giving us a richly diverse ensemble without breaking a drop of sweat. Rom Barkhordar brilliantly showcases his unusually backward journey from unhinged to full of hope as Vanya. Puja Mohindra's Sonya lets worry weigh on her heavily, like she's almost being smothered by her giant sweater. Tiffany Renee Johnson crosses over the line of sly manipulator and oblivious socialite so often she is a blur. Finally, Allison Cain and Raj Bond as Marina and Waffles seem to embody our basic need for rest and comfort so fittingly, it's hard not to be drawn in. Rasaka Theatre's Vanya is a perfectly strange ode to the original.
This article shared 1119 times since Tue Jan 10, 2017
| ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE|
|THEATER Nelson Rodriguez talks boxing, queerness and his very personal play 2023-12-03|
- On Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Chicago Cultural Center, there will be a reading of New Personalidada play by actor, playwright and former Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree Nelson Rodriguez. The program, part of ...
|SHOWBIZ 'Bodyshop,' Beyonce, Ani DiFranco, Billie Jean King 2023-12-01|
- The Breaking Glass Pictures film Bodyshop will be out on digital on Dec. 5, per a press release. The plot is described thusly: "The ghost of a young soldier sexually assaulted by his lieutenant says goodbye ...
|PERFORMANCE Teatro Zinzanni's Carisa Hendrix talks magic, queerness and Canada 2023-11-28|
- One could call Teatro Zinzanni's newest production, "Love, Chaos, and Dinner," a meal and a show—but that would definitely shortchange this ongoing extravaganza. Taking place at the Loop's Cambria Hotel, there is not a bad seat ...
|'Sleeping with Beauty' serves up naughty holiday laughs 2023-11-27|
- Seasonal British pantomimes have been securing the talents of such known performers as Henry Winkler, George Takei and Sir Ian McKellen for decades now. This inventive recounting of fairy tales, utilizing popular song, comedy and rowdy ...
|Jerry Mitchell bops into Boop! 2023-11-27|
- Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell is bringing black-and-white Boop! The Betty Boop Musical into a world of color at the CIBC Theatre this winter. It's a pre-Broadway world premiere for the musical starring Jasmine Amy Rogers ...
|Hell in a Handbag to present 'Peep Show: The Handbag 2023 Benefit'on Dec. 10 2023-11-25|
--From a press release - CHICAGOHell in a Handbag Productions will present its 2023 benefit: Peep Showa peep through the curtains at the company's 2024 seasonon Sunday, Dec. 10, 11:30 a.m. — 3:30 p.m. at The Center on Halsted's The Hoover-Leppen ...
|Sarah Siddons to produce 'Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy' 2023-11-22|
- In a first for the 71-year-old Sarah Siddons Society, it will produce a one-night performance of Noor Inayat Khan: The Forgotten Spy—a new one-woman play written and performed by Almanya Narula, a 2016 Siddons Scholarship recipient ...
|YEPP 'rises' to occasion at fall fundraiser 2023-11-20|
- Members and guests of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) gathered Nov. 17 at Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave., for the organization's fall fundraiser, Rise Up: Our Celebration of Resistance. The evening marked both the ...
|WORLD Latvia, nonbinary magistrate, Gay Games end, Israel soldiers 2023-11-17|
- Latvia's parliament voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions, Reuters reported. Said couples now have legal recognitionbut fewer rights than married couples. The new legislation, slated to take effect in the middle of next ...
|THEATER Queer actor Chloe Baldwin talks 'POTUS,' identity and Shakespeare 2023-11-15|
- In the Steppenwolf farce POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, queer actor Chloe Baldwin portrays the president's mistress Dusty, acting alongside a formidable group that includes Caroline Neff ...
|'Jersey Boys' stars reunite as Midtown Men on Dec. 2 in Glen Ellyn 2023-11-14|
- The original stars of the Broadway hit Jersey BoysChristian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencerwill reunite as Midtown Men on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at McAninch Arts Center's Belushi Performance Hall ...
|Hell in a Handbag Productions presents world premiere of The Golden Girls Save Xmas, A Lost Episodes Parody 2023-11-12|
--From a press release - CHICAGO (November 10, 2023) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to kick off its 2023/24 season this November with The Golden Girls Save Xmas — A Lost Episodes Parody, featuring an all-new holiday tale ...
|SHOWBIZ Kaytranada, NFL star, Alexandra Billings, video game, George Michael 2023-11-10|
- Out Montreal DJ/producer Kaytranada teased his latest single, "Out of Luck," with Mariah the Scientist, on Twitter, Complex noted. "THIS IS THE ANTHEM!" Kaytra wrote in his quote-tweet of the song playing at a release party. ...
|Charles Busch dishes on life as a storyteller 2023-11-09|
- Performer/writer Charles Busch, who recently penned his autobiography, Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy, said that collecting his most precious and salient memories in a book felt "inevitable." "Storytelling is such an essential ...
|Black Excellence Awards winners named, inaugural Chicago Black Arts Hall of Fame inductees honored 2023-11-08|
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Nov. 7, 2023)—The nonprofit Black Arts & Culture Alliance of Chicago is proud to announce the winners of its 23rd Annual Black Excellence Awards, honored last night in a festive celebration at Black Ensemble Theater. ...