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Dead Letters: An Exploration of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya

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Big Theater's reworked Uncle Vanya boasts plenty of invention and youthful energy—entirely at odds with the story's essential melancholia. The actors playing Vanya and Astrov are too young, and they don't do much physically to suggest they're not. Director Ellie Heyman's snappy expressionist lighting effects and environmental-theater touches make the most of the nontraditional space (a room with bookshelves), but they're pretty arbitrary and introduce a tension contrary to the general air of desiccation. Only the device of some miked voice-overs really harmonizes with the source. Age-inappropriate casting aside, Alex Balestrieri is quite good as Vanya, though he occasionally presses too hard, and Laura Grey's mannered take on femme fatale Yelena is fitting as often as it is distracting. —Brian Nemtusak Through 6/16: Fri-Sat 8 PM, the Boring Store, 826CHI, 1331 N. Milwaukee, 773-484-8126, $10.

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