Leonardo Lidi continues his exploration of Chekhov’s works with a great classic of the modern theatre: Uncle Vanja, the second act of a project that started in 2022 with The Seagull and will conclude in 2024 with The Cherry Orchard. With this trilogy, Lidi returns to the deepest meaning of the theatre, capturing the simplicity of its narrative strength.
Uncle Vanya, written in 1897, is one of Chekhov's absolute theatrical masterpieces, and it allows us to relentlessly explore the family and interpersonal relationships of its characters, the brutality of the forced coexistence over a long period of time of people who do not have any sense of empathy for each other, and the impossibility of attaining happiness.
"We loved each other so much. There was a time when this strange family was not so strange after all. Our roles were well distributed, with credibility and without excesses, and each of us could be considered useful for every day’s performance on the stage of life. Everyone in their proper place, with order and naturalness. The character who wore the costume of an intellectual, for example, was to be considered as a metaphor for future hope, and it was appropriate that love and gratitude be reserved for him as though he were a fascinating and heroic medieval knight. It was thought to be simply right that a nice beautiful young girl should fall in love with him, her teacher, and it was equally plausible that her family should protect the scholar as they would an animal belonging to an endangered species. And so Vera marries Aleksandr, she takes him home, and the story begins. The inhabitants of Chekhov’s planet now come alive, entering an adequate dimension for their educational backgrounds. All of them now row in the same direction, and the possibility of building an efficient and successful Russia ceases to be a mirage and becomes a concrete and real prospect for tomorrow. In a dimension where man is the architect of his own destiny, happiness could find its proper space. But Vera dies and everything changes. Hope is extinguished, and whoever tries to make a new start appears ridiculous in the attempt. The heart turns black, and what could have been a colourful comedy is transformed into an irreverent and continuous bout of hysterical laughter at a funeral. The idea of a country guided by its thinkers is buried, and we can only come to terms with this by taking this inexorable fact as our starting point. This home is culturally dead, my friends. It is governed by ignoramuses and sterile ideologies. The Uncle, a badly dressed eccentric, who undresses young girls with his eyes and looks forward to family reunions merely as an opportunity to get drunk and to explicitly remind everyone of our perpetually humiliating condition: it is useless to work, useless to become committed, and useless to study. Vanja says, “It is better to wait for an income gained without sweating, and better to just complain about those who have destroyed talent. [...]”
– From Leonardi Lidi’s director’s notes.