Chekhov is the father of modern theatre in every sense - in his four great plays (he wrote others that weren't so great) he paved the way for many, if not all, contemporary playwrights. Although Chekhov tends to be thrown into the category of naturalism, many feel he is closer to an absurdist. Regardless, one thing that comes to mind when Chekhov is mentioned is subtext. In his plays, what is not spoken is at least as important as what is. When a production comes along that forgets this importance of subtext, Chekhov seems more the naïve buffoon than the master of ceremonies.
As directed by James L. Eaton and Gail Weed, the Playtime Series 65-minute version of The Seagull was almost all externals with hardly any emotional center. Take, for instance, Nina (Licia James McLoughlin) in Treplev (Christian Conn)'s play: she was so over the top, played for bad theatrical conventions, one would have thought that Treplev and Nina didn't believe in what they were doing at all. Even when a playwright ends up with a bad play, as in the case of Treplev, his intent is usually not to create bad theatre. Nina and Treplev should seem truly intent on changing forms in theatre, rather than like two spoiled kids wanting to ruin their audience's pleasure. Enacting Treplev's play without these earnest intentions implied that Nina and Treplev aren't really dreamers at all; without that premise The Seagull has very little to go on.
There were also too many misconceived characterizations. For instance, Masha (Kristina Latour) didn't really seem to be mourning for her life, and Arkadina (Ardes Quinn) was played as the external actress, without much investigation into the tragic premise that makes her such a fascinating character. A couple of moments did work well: the scene with Arkadina and Sorin (Del Willard) and the final moments of the play. It seemed for once the pretense of doing a great play was dropped and the actors worked for a deeper meaning. When Sorin swiftly played Arkadina as a "good woman" so she can care for Treplev, we saw both her love for Treplev and, most important, that Arkadina is a child herself rather than the mother-monster she is sometimes mistaken for. Both the restrained performance of Christian Conn in the final scene and the delivery of Dorn (Joseph King)'s final "Get Irina Nikolayevna away from here somehow. The fact is Konstantin Gavrilovich has shot himself" were both tremendously moving, and the production rose to the level of what it should have been.
The uncredited sets and lights were merely serviceable but nothing more. (Others in the cast: James L. Eaton, Alan Benson, Edward Kassar, and Vickie Varnuska.)
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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath