Broadway and Hollywood Movies
Broadway’s Best Bets (May 1930)
UNCLE VANYA—Lillian Gish, one of America’s foremost screen actresses, is seen in this new play at the Cort Theatre in a comedy by Anton Chekov—produced by Jed Harris. Mr. Harris’ cast is excellent, his scene setting in perfect harmony and his direction unpretentious and intelligent, his adaptation by Rose Caylor modestly modernized.
“Uncle Vanya” is greatly helped thereby. Chekov demands such artful treatment in the American theatre. His passive stories and leisurely action focus attention upon characters and moods. This is particularly true of “Vanya,” which is another of those simple recitals of love in the country and the irony of its arbitrary miscues in which Russian authors delight.
We have the placid and docile Uncle Vanya sacrificing his life, first for an unappreciative family, including a pompous molusk who trades on his learning and his poor health; and later for a handsome sister-in-law, who unfortunately loves another. And numerous sub-plots of other loves that are unhappily wasted on the wrong hearts, each demanding special emphasis in the playing.
Mr. Harris has selected for Vanya the excellent Walter Connelly, who suffers live pangs with convincing intensity. And for the chaste and unhappy Helena, the object of Vanya’s misplaced ardors, he has induced Lillian Gish, coldly perfect, a rare and charming personality in the playhouse, to return to what used to be known at the speaking stage.
If Miss Gish seemed a particularly youthful Helena the fault was rather in the picture than in the playing. Her Helena was mature and understanding, and as miserably unhappy as any Chekov could ask.
Bolstering these two were fine performances by Osgood Perkins as a sanely philosophical doctor of medicine, and Joanna Roos as a vibrant Sonya, whose love dreams were likewise nightmares. So, with these histrionic perfections as its greatest recommendation, “Uncle Vanya” should please the Chekovians mightily. There is a considerable public of them, as Eva Le Gallienne has proved.