Anton Chekhov is among the most performed playwright in the entire world — right up there with William Shakespeare himself. Luckily for University students, a rare opportunity to experience a bona fide production of a landmark work in Russian theater is here. The Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg, a world-renowned theater, is bringing its rendition of “Uncle Vanya” to Ann Arbor in honor of the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth.

“Uncle Vanya”

Tomorrow through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Power Center
Tickets from $18

Dina Dodina, assistant director and dramaturg for “Uncle Vanya” and vice artistic director and international tour manager of the Maly Drama Theater, said director Lev Dodin has wanted to share his theater’s version of “Uncle Vanya” with American audiences for quite some time. She explained that Chekhov wouldn’t be so popular if he hadn’t been a universal genius and a master of capturing the essence of “the human condition.”

“The main concept of ‘Uncle Vanya’ is at some point all of us, as humans, realize that we’ve been living life not the way that we wanted to live it,” Dodina said. “What’s happening to us now is not what we dreamt about when we were young, not what we aimed for. But, normally when you realize your life is not the life you wanted for yourself, it’s usually way too late to try and change it.

“And this is the crux of being human, this is what the human condition is — usually when you know you’re living wrong it’s too late to start living right,” she said.

“This is why ‘Uncle Vanya’ might be the most universal play that Chekov ever wrote,” she added. “Dissatisfaction with life, if I’m not mistaken, is pretty international. It’s not something only Russians encounter.”

The Maly Drama Theater production will be performed in Russian with English surtitles. Dodina said the scenic and costume choices have been internationally hailed as a work of art and are “imbricative of Chekhov’s era, but not necessarily rooted in it.”

“For a production of a classic, our production is surprisingly alive and surprisingly sexy,” she said.

The Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, in partnership with the University Musical Society, has planned events around Maly Drama Theater’s visit in order to enhance the cultural experience for the University and greater Ann Arbor community.

Today from 3 to 5 p.m., there will be a Russian Language Tea in the Power Center’s green room for the Maly Drama Theater and the local Russian-speaking community, hosted by the Department for Slavic Languages and Literature. There will be an interview with Dodin at 6:30 p.m. before Friday’s performance in the Founders Room of the Alumni Center. Both events are free and open to the public.

Tomorrow night at 8 p.m., there will be a special performance planned exclusively for students with reduced ticket prices — $15 for center seats and $10 for the sides.

UMS, as a part of its lobby event, will also be holding “roundtable discussions” for students to participate in after each performance. After the special Wednesday student performance, small groups will go as a part of this lobby event to Silvio’s. Tickets are free and can be obtained after the performances from any UMS representative wearing a green shirt.

“The whole idea (with the roundtable discussions) is to just kind of connect people to the performance after it’s done, to keep people talking about it and to draw interest. Make it a place for conversation,” said Rachel Lum, an LSA sophomore and UMS marketing intern.

“I think it’s a real cultural experience and I think it’s something we need to take advantage of,” she added. “UMS brings a lot of really cool things, but the Maly Drama Theater is one of the greatest in the world. And they are doing something that is very much reminiscent of the original production.

“And I mean, Lev Dodin? Come on! That’s just something that is once in a lifetime.”

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