‘Uncle Vanya’ airs on Theatre Close Up

Jesse Pennington, left, and Jay O. Sanders in “Uncle Vanya.” (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)

Non-tradional stage production are all the rage these days, such as “Oklahoma! which took home the Best Revival  of a Musical at the 2019 Tony Awards.

Tonight, at 9, PBS Channel 13 airs Richard Nelson’s  production of the canonical Chekhov drama that may be the most intimate version of the play available, according to the New York Times. The actors, for the most part, delivers their lines in murmurs.(Check your local PBS station for additional broadcasts.)

“I happen to have a voice that can fill a theater rather easily,” Jay O. Sanders, who plays the title character in the production, told The Times last year. “But suddenly I was being told, ‘Don’t use that. Use your voice, but don’t do it to reach the audience; do it to reach the other people onstage,’ and the freedom of that has been extraordinary.”

The result is a telling of the story that asks for careful listening, but rewards attentive audience members with the rare feeling that they’re flies on a wall of the forlorn 19th-century Russian estate where the story is set.


In this production, the play is “clearer, truer and more comprehensible than it’s ever been before, as if it had always been operating on a frequency that you’ve only now been given access to,” Ben Brantley wrote in his review for The Times. “This,” he added, “is as naked and fully human an ‘Uncle Vanya’ as we’re likely to see.”

Read The Washington Post story: How this ‘Vanya’ is a teachable moment — for how to stage a classic play today