Absurdity and Angst: A Glimpse at the Inspiration Behind “Vanya”
Orlando Shakes will be opening Christopher Durang’s newest play, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (Vanya) this April. The Tony Award-winning comedy is a humorous adaptation of themes found in Anton Chekhov’s work. While you don’t need to have read Chekhov to enjoy the production, a little familiarity with the legendary Russian playwright will add to the fun.
Anton Chekhov was born in Russia in 1860. His young life was anything but pleasant. His physically abusive father was declared bankrupt in 1876, but despite the family living in poverty, Chekhov managed to pay his way through school and gain admittance to the First Moscow State Medical University. Working as a medical doctor paid some of the family’s bills, but not enough, so Chekhov looked to writing as a supplement to his income. Sometimes writing under pseudonyms such as “Man without a Spleen,” Chekhov’s satirical writing style gained both popularity and criticism—the latter of which motivated the writer to pursue more artistically ambitious projects.
Anton Chekhov’s writing developed into a modern, realistic, tragicomic style that was more often than not too ahead of its time. His first show flopped, and while he had much more success working with Konstantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theater, Chekhov still felt his work was being widely misunderstood. Many theater professionals, including Stanislavsky himself, simply felt that there was no humor to be found in tragedy. But haven’t we all cried tears of joy? Even in our darkest hours, haven’t we all laughed at the absurdity of life itself?
One-hundred and eight years after Chekhov’s death, one dark and absurd comic genius is shedding new light on Chekhov’s acute understanding of the human condition. Vanya is the critically acclaimed brainchild of Christopher Durang, a longtime admirer of Anton Chekhov’s work. Reminiscent of Chekhov’s Three Sisters and The Seagull, Durang’s Vanya explores the lives of three siblings living up to their Chekhovian namesakes.
Mixing Chekhov sensibilities with modern cringe-worthy flair, Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike is a show that you don’t want to miss! Tickets are available online or by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1.
Lyndsey Elizabeth, Orlando Shakes Marketing Volunteer
Lyndsey Elizabeth is a Marketing Volunteer at Orlando Shakespeare Theater and 2011 graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Anthropology with a Minor in Mass Communication. She is also a visual artist, and has sold and exhibited her paintings for almost a decade.