September 18, 2014
“Na zdorovie mother f***ers,” the audience cheers as part of a toast, to an unlucky woman preparing to down a shot of vodka. Unlucky of course being a subjective term depending on your poison of choice. This moment is just one of the bizarre and comedic antics of Three Day Hangover’s “Drunkle Vanya,” presented Tuesday evening at the Gin Mill on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“Drunkle” is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” a notoriously difficult play to stage and most recently re-popularized by Cate Blanchett and the Sydney Theater Company. Performed in a bar of course, “Drunkle Vanya,” is cut into two acts, centering on the return of a professor and his brazenly beautiful second wife to their country estate that is occupied by Uncle Vanya, his friend, and niece.
This adaptation from Lori Wolter Hudson streamlines the dense work into an entertaining and original performance that gets to the essence of Chekhov. The big moments are present but displayed in a way that an audience feels connected to the show. The group is clever in their set up- let’s loosen the stuffy feel of theatre and "ice" some patrons along the way, seems to be the motto. Look up “getting iced,” if you don’t follow my reference, try it at your next formal dinner party.
A stellar cast lead by Joel Rainwater as Vanya, creates an intimate environment in which they share their craft. Rainwater, boisterous and focused in the delivery of each line, channels an array of emotions, one minute laughing and the next nearly in tears. Amanda Sykes as Yelena was another stand out. She commands the room upon entrance, and uses her wit, not her sexuality to emphasize the strengths of Yelena. A more complicated character than a basic reading might allude to, Sykes accomplished the full intricacies she was faced with.
The rest of the cast (David Hudson, Leah Walsh, Sean Tarrant, and Josh Sauerman) all shared fun and endearing moments, that constantly kept me on the edge of my bar seat. Certainly it was entertainment factor and not because I had one too many. Cheers to Three Day Hangover and the cast of “Drunkle Vanya,” a unique theatre experience that shouldn’t be missed.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon