During our Broadway binge week, one of the shows we saw was a new production of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”

Chekhov is not the kind of playwright who appeals to me, but my interest was piqued when I read this was a new version adapted by Heidi Schreck, whose “What The Constitution Means To Me” I raved about in 2019 (read my review here). On top of that, the cast for this Lincoln Center production includes Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Alfred Molina, Anika Noni Rose, and William Jackson Harper (who I also raved about in “Primary Trust” last year — read that review here). It all added up to what I thought would be a wonderful evening of theater.

I was wrong.

The play is an absolute bore, and Vanya (Carell) the least compelling character, a moper with an unhappy life whose interest is only raised by Elena (Rose), the beautiful new wife of his brother (Molina). Also vying for her affections is Astrov (Harper), a local doctor who starts coming by Vanya’s estate more frequently because she’s there. But while Astrov is obsessing over Elena, he doesn’t notice that Vanya’s niece (Pill) has a serious crush on him.

This amalgam of unhappy people isn’t much fun to spend time with — especially in the seats of the Vivian Beaumont Theater, which has less leg room than a Spirit Airlines flight. I haven’t been in such confined quarters since the last time we attended a play at the Helen Hayes Theater, where the spacing between rows was built to accommodate no one taller than that diminutive actress, who was a full sixteen inches shorter than me. I was so uncomfortable in my assigned seat at the Beaumont that I got up and moved to an empty row in the back, where at least I could twist my body enough to extend my feet — just like another miserable tall guy who had moved to the same row several seats away.

But there was nothing I could do to make “Uncle Vanya” more pleasant to slog through. I have seen it described as a comedy, yet I didn’t witness even a single humorous moment.

Anton Chekhov is famous for saying that if you introduce a gun in the first act of a play, it must go off in the third. Well, this one has a gun that isn’t mentioned at all until it shows up towards the end, and even after it’s fired twice, there are no consequences.

This has inspired my new theater-going axiom: no matter who’s in the cast, if the play was written by Chekhov (even adapted by Heidi Schreck), I’m going to stay away from all three acts.

Previously on Harris Online: