The cast of Uncle Vanya. They're smiling because they have wifi.
  • The cast of Uncle Vanya. They're smiling because they have wifi.
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Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov runs through March 11 at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. It is a devastating story based on not having an iPhone.

You think I jest? I am as serious as a Russian winter. Go see Uncle Vanya and then try to complain about the loss of our hallowed agrarian past and how technology is ruining our ability to interact with each other. You’re assuming we were masters of interaction in the past. Chekhov says we weren’t, and I’m of a mind to agree with him.

Imagine your life surrounded by only a handful of people, some of whom you hate and some of whom return the favor. No problem. You have the internet. You can explore limitless amounts of interesting topics (cat videos) and make friends with people tens of thousands of miles away. You can even speak to them face to face.

Imagine your life surrounded by hateful people but now you have no tech to help you. That’s the plight of the characters in Uncle Vanya, and I have never been so happy to have a smartphone.

Uncle Vanya

The 120 years since Chekhov wrote Uncle Vanya have been the most transformative in known human history. Vanya was set in the contemporary Russia of Chekhov, but it could have been set a thousand years earlier without changing a single word of the script. The lives of the characters would have been unchanged.

Bring the characters to our day and the internet would erase much of their dis-ease. The environmentalist doctor might be able to find a willing ear for his concerns regarding the deforestation of the district. The idle but attractive young bride of the aging professor could find some relevance as an Instagram influencer in the beauty field. Uncle Vanya himself would be an effective blogger with the handle @oldmanregretful.

Now we experience a play such as Vanya and can’t imagine people living in such circumstances. Their lives are almost unrecognizable, because they have no opportunity to change their context. In our culture there are infinite ways to escape one’s circumstances, and those options are supplied by technology, but we continue to villainize tech and “screen time.”

Yes, there is inane content on the internet, but better to have it stored there, in the cloud, than having an inane existence stored in your soul until the day you die.

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Comments

monaghan Feb. 22, 2018 @ 8:30 p.m.

As I said earlier this week in another context, but also about Reader reviewers stepping outside their expertise : Philistine Central. (Try looking at the recent review of this production by LA Times theater critic Charles McNulty. He was over-the-moon.)

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monaghan Feb. 26, 2018 @ 10:38 p.m.

Now that I have actually seen "Uncle Vanya" at the small theater of the Old Globe, I am even more surprised by this ignorant dismissive review. I urge Readerreaders to hurry to buy a ticket, as the play closes in early March. The actors are superb, the staging and sound design are unusual and effective and unlike anything I've ever experienced, and the story by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov is intensely human and haunts one's thoughts long afterward. Garrett Harris should stick to his "screens." It's a pity Jeff Smith did not review this production.

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Garrett Harris April 19, 2018 @ 3:41 p.m.

This is an anti-review Monaghan. The writer is not allowed to review the performances, staging, lighting etc. The point is to broaden the conversation not sell ticket for The Old Globe. That is was poorly attended is a shame but that onus lies upon the organization producing the play not the publications writing about it. I was deeply moved by this production and recommended it to everyone I know.

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