Sonya (Dearbhla Molloy) aka Sofia Alexandrovna Serebryakov and Andrey (Dermot Crowley) aka Andrei Sergeyevich Prozorov met as strangers last night in an all but deserted Moscow café. (It’s the 1920s.) When he returns this evening, he’s delighted to find her at the same table, albeit buried in paperwork. Andrey cordially reintroduces himself. Sonya remembers. They had talked of chilblains cures (both being of an age), his talented family, and the difficulties of living alone. She’s a spinster, he’s a widower.
Apparently a practical woman, Sonya’s clothes are plain, dun colored, and warm, her grey hair pulled back. She’s come to the city to settle her Uncle Vanya’s much in debt estate (yes, that Uncle Vanya.) “With all the dogged determination an indecisive man could muster…” he ran it into the ground and then died.
The balding Andrey wears white tie and tails (somewhat the worse for wear) and carries a violin case. A widower, he travels to the capital for intermittent work, leaving behind sisters Olga and Irina; a third sister, Masha had killed herself over unrequited love. (Those Three Sisters.) Andrey has come from rehearsal of La Bohème at the opera house. A speech about hard chairs and the musician’s solution is adroit.
Familiarity with Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters is not a prerequisite. Though recall adds dimension, back stories are clear. As Andrey eats his meager cabbage soup and Sonya drinks her glass of tea, the sympathetic travelers talk about their lives. Bit by bit, eventually sharing a bottle of vodka she has sequestered in her bag, they both reveal little fictions offered to the other in order to appear finer and more stable. Warmth is palpable, but circumstances – complicate.
Brian Friel has written an immensely delicate piece. The first time one hears the name Vanya, it’s difficult not to wonder whether the play is an exercise, something the playwright might’ve created to amuse himself. By virtue of its unfussy truth and superb performances, however, the writing captures and holds attention.
I can’t imagine a more balanced pair of actors. Both are exquisite listeners. Both seem completely natural. Every tone and gesture is colored by the character’s history, reserved feelings, and unspoken thoughts. Molloy and Crowley seem completely invested in a real time experience. A treat!
Director Joe Dowling has a light touch with serious subjects and skill with slow revelation. His characters are flesh and blood.Pacing is perfect.
John Lee Beatty’s Set Design offers the solid weight of old world Russia, once elegant, now faded. Fabio Toblini’s Costume Design arrives as if respectively lived in.
It should be noted that the downstairs W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre has been renovated and enlarged much to its benefit and ours.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Irish Repertory Theatre presents
Afterplay by Brian Friel
Directed by Joe Dowling
Featuring Dermot Crowley & Dearbhla Molloy
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through November 6, 2016