Adding depth to characters by subtracting plot


By Chen Nan
BEIJING, Oct. 27 — Four men wander the stage gulping vodka, sometimes sitting in a few chairs.
They sing, dance and fight. They discuss their attitudes toward middle age, struggles and longing.
This is the interpretation of Los Angeles-based Theater Movement Bazaar’s co-founders Tina Kronis and Richard Alger of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s century-old Uncle Vanya – re-invented as Anton’s Uncles.
The husband-and-wife-run company’s latest work will soon come to Beijing and Shanghai. It has staged about 70 performances in the United States and Europe in the past four years.
“We are big fans of Chekhov, and we have adapted all his plays as well as one of his short stories,” says choreographer and co-director Kronis.
“Uncle Vanya’s sense of regret and ennui are great conditions for a tragic-comedy, which is the story we seek to explore.”
Kronis is a former dancer who studied and performed theater. She was fascinated by the complexity of the characters in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in college.
Like other Theater Movement Bazaar shows, Anton’s Uncles is a concept in which “a classic is examined, pulled apart and reinvigorated with a new text, song, dance and a vibrant physicality”, she explains.
Alger says: “Our hope was that the audience would follow the journey of these men and that the physicality was understandable and would heighten the tragedy and comedy.”
Kronis and Alger previously produced Chekhov’s Three Sisters with just the women. So they were interested in doing a companion piece – Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya – with just the men. There are the manager of the family estate Vanya, who’s middle-aged, unmarried and filled with regret; the local doctor Astrov, who’s unmarried, middle-aged and a big dreamer; the neighbor Waffles; and a professor, who’s the widower to Vanya’s sister.
“Mid-life crisis is core in the show,” Kronis says.
“It’s a feeling that one is no longer in one’s prime and that time has slipped by, leaving one’s dreams unfulfilled. At this stage, the individual feels pressed to show his vitality and typically comes across as a fool.”
By removing elements of the original play’s narrative and characters within, they examine and expand on the men and their yearning.
“It seems to be a universal theme that everyone struggles with their hopes, dreams and desires at one point in their lives,” Kronis says, referring to the audiences’ enthusiastic response to the world tour. They’ve continued refining and changing the show to keep it fresh.[db:内容2]