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David West Read (#110 of 1)

The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya‘s Reed Birney

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The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya’s Reed Birney
The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya’s Reed Birney

Just the mere announcement of a new production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at SoHo Rep, the venturesome Tribeca-based theater company, generated much excitement among New York theater aficionados; the quickly sold-out, initially six-week run is now extended through July 22. A century-old Russian classic is unusual programming for the Obie-award winning company best known as an incubator for contemporary work by emerging writers, but what makes this production noteworthy is the thrilling alignment of three of the brightest talents working in New York theater today: playwright Annie Baker, who adapted a new version of the text, director Sam Gold, and actor Reed Birney in the title role. The three previously worked together on Circle Mirror Transformation, Baker’s keenly observed and deeply felt 2009 drama about a group of people in an acting class. The 31-year-old playwright, whose work includes Body Awareness and Aliens, is one of the leading writers of her generation, while Gold, age 34, is one of the most sought-after directors in town. Birney may not be a marquee name, but he’s one of the finest actors working today in New York City theater. He started his career at age 22 playing the juvenile lead in Albert Innaurato’s Gemini, an Off Broadway hit which went on to enjoy a successful run on Broadway in the mid 1970s. More than three decades later, he experienced a career resurgence with his uncompromising performance in the 2008 New York premiere of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. In 2011, after a remarkable season in which he appeared in three new Off-Broadway plays (Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still, Adam Bock’s A Small Fire, and David West Read’s The Dream of the Burning Boy), the 57-year-old actor was awarded a special award from the Drama Desk for his body of work. We recently spoke with the actor about his career and his current role.