As arguably the most famous playwright that Russia has ever produced, Anton Chekhov has written works that have been read and performed on an international level since their first publication in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His literary genius has helped to further the genre of realistic theatre with a tragicomedy of simultaneous humor and melancholy unique to his plays. In comparing three contemporary dramatic literature adaptations of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya
to the original (Sam Holcroft’s Vanya
, Howard Barker’s Uncle Vanya
and David Mamet’s Uncle Vanya
) I will prove that Chekhov’s particular use of tragicomedy creates a human universality that dramatists try to emulate to this day, while each individually adjusts the test to fit his own distinctive writing style and vision for the plotline. This comparison asserts that classic works of dramatic literature contain an isolated universal human element that compels playwrights to create modern adaptations.
Scene from Sam Holcroft’s Vanya performed as part of 10-Minute Plays during the 2011 Spring Student Symposium.