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Uncle Vanya 

When: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 17 2008
Price: $12

Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanyais the opposite of a feel-good comedy. Accompanied by his beautiful young wife, an elderly and infirm professor visits the estate where his late wife's brother, mother, and daughter work to support his livelihood. There's humor that can be brought out in astute productions, but a so-so staging only underscores how hard it is to pull off a play where everyone on stage is bored and unhappy without those feelings becoming infectious. The Actors Ensemble of Berkeley production that Stanley Spenger adapted, directs, and stars in unfortunately falls into the latter category. The most noticeable change the cutting of most of Vanya's lines at the end as if he's too depressed to speak. It's an intriguing choice that seems designed to make room for a dramatic portrayal of despair that's not particularly notable. Through May 17 at Live Oak Theatre (1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley).AEofBerkeley.org or 510-649-5999.


— Sam Hurwitt

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