Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Chekhov Family Game Night

Chekhov may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For some, he’s almost as rough as a stiff shot of cheap vodka: lingering longer than you’d like. So how do you bring audiences together to take in a Chekhov? Play a game and give them a shot of vodka! In Three Day Hangover’s latest drunken endeavor, the company takes the Chekhov classic Uncle Vanya and plays a bunch of games as a dysfunctional family, namely Cards Against Humanity. Drunkle Vanya is a little bit American (party games) and a little bit Russian (vodka) all tied together with the common thread that brings them together, family drama.
photo courtesy of Lloyd Mulvey
Adapted and directed by Lori Wolter Hudson, Vanya’s family woes are transported to modern times and given the contemporary spin. Like other Three Day Hangover hits, Drunkle Vanya’s audience participation comes in the form of Cards Against Humanity. Each audience member is given a sticker with a game card on it, turning them into physical playing cards. At various parts of the show, the characters will say the word blank, break into a Framily Meeting where the remaining five cast members must find the best human playing card in the audience for the actor to fill in their blank. The ingenious game is fun and oft times hilarious, especially when some of the company breaks at how awful or uproarious the cards are. As far as the source material is concerned, Uncle Vanya is present in theme and intent, swapping many lines out for modern references. Enthusiasts should know that this not your average Chekhov. But when you get hints of the original scattered throughout the dialogue, it makes the evening worthwhile. One of the only hiccups Drunkle Vanya presents is the reason for being performed in a bar. While the goal is to present theater in a drinking atmosphere, figuring out a way to incorporate the bar into the story would have been beneficial.
The young company of six took the Chekhov framily and brought high energy and hilarity to the usually heavy drama. Joel Rainwater as Vanya conveyed the drunk uncle effortlessly. His array of emotions from super inebriated to super anger were fun to watch. David Hudson as Astrov filled the “straight man” void of this production, ultimately having one of the funnier makeout moments with Amanda Sykes’ super seductive and lazy Yelena. Leah Walsh was lovely as the optimistically romantically hopeful Sonya. Stealing the show was Josh Sauerman as the kazoo-playing Waffles. He was a fan favorite with the amount of “awws” and “oohs” the audience uttered as he traveled across the stage with his puppy dog eyes.
Three Day Hangover did the unthinkable and made Chekhov bearable and cool. The incorporation of every adults favorite dirty game was a clever idea that kept the audience engaged and involved in the story.