Online Hubbub: The Seagull

Let us know what you thought!

Did director János Szász’s staging change any of your ideas about Chekov?

János Szász is primarily a film director.  What seemed cinematic about the production to you?  How is the experience of live theatre different from seeing a film?

The young playwright Konstantin Treplev wants to create a theatre of the future.  What is your vision of a theatre of the future?

Other comments?

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89 Responses to Online Hubbub: The Seagull

  1. T. says:

    Expansive scope… interesting textual decisions… A true departure from the playwright while attempting to keep in line with Chekhov’s vision for the future of his theater. More of an insider’s piece than a mass marketable work… Gideon’s note was truly vital to the non-educated audience…

    This would be a brilliant Great Performances as far as the look… Kind of a mediocre production but a pretty stunning concept… more later

  2. Marg Davies says:

    It was an unfortunate production. In the entire first act people shouted at each other, leaving the audience without identification to a sympathetic character. We didn’t care about anyone on stage. It was almost a farce.

  3. ckrakoff says:

    Where was the Chekhov in this? The actors did nothing but shout at one another – the only exception was the actor playing the old man Pyotr, who was the only character to appear as a person rather than a caricature. It is fine to bring new staging to a play if it adds something to our understanding. But this staging, and the mediocre acting, did not. This production rivaled the A.R.T. Three Sisters performance of 2007 in its inane departure from and obfuscation of Chekhov’s language, subtlety, and insights.

    There was nothing at all cinematic in the director’s staging. Indeed, it was remarkably static.

  4. B. says:

    Szasz’s vision of tomorrow’s theatre seems geared towards an emerging, young audience; as a student with my own preconceptions of Chekhov, I appreciated this kinetic, well-paced production. The Guns n’ Roses certainly didn’t hurt. Certainly, his clear concept– making Treplev the central character– butts against Chekhov’s text and leaves less room to develop the other characters’ stories. But Treplev, with his insistence on new theatrical forms, speaks to my generation of art-makers and their abiding fear of mediocrity. I think Szasz wants us to see this fear as dangerous, deadly and tragic. Young artists must keep on going, no matter what!

  5. T. says:

    I think B. puts it well… It is arguable that the story is Konstantin’s so there was no real departure from the text just an opening of a different perspective. I concur that the concept of this production might be lost on an audience whose aesthetic and loyalties lie with a previous type of theater, neither form is more or less valid but I would note that theater in this country has been performed and presented in relatively the same way for the past 80 years… A shift in the predominant style is inevitable and I would submit that Szasz recognizes this change and attempted to fill it….

    Now this is a pretty academic comment because I feel that although the concept was a sound and interesting one with all the parts in place, I believe that the execution of this production ultimately failed. As a film, with many takes, this could have been a successful retelling of The Seagull, but I think that much of the core of this piece was lost in favor of a bit of spectacle.

  6. Toma says:

    From a pure entertainment perspective the show is a tremendous success. Of course it is a “creative” interpretation, fulfilling a key piece of the ART mission to explore new ground and expand the boundaries of theater thru contemp reinterpretation of classics. For me, the future dream world worked. The passion of Konstantin / Solis was addictive – I wanted more. The guns n-roses / SCOM is brilliantly placed. Overall one of the better ART productions in recent seasons.

  7. David C. says:

    The production was trying too hard to be relevant. If you have to shove it down the audience’s throats, then it’s probably overdone. I’ve seen worse at the A.R.T. but I’ve certainly seen far better.

  8. R.Duke says:

    This is the most phenomenal production I have seen at the ART. Szasz is a genius who isn’t afraid to take risks, to challenge conventional interpretations and who conveys poetic imagery in every ounce of his blocking. He breaks down the divide between audience and actors to create a communal space, a collective spirit that exists only once, a social body that is immediately created and destroyed in a climactic two hours, but whose life will remain in the eternal space of memory.

  9. Cheryll says:

    The show was a bit hard to follow but did keep my attention. The thing that really bummed me out was that the cast smoked REAL cigarettes. Not only does smoke bother me, I found it hard to believe it would be allowed in Cambridge! Even more so after the RI tragedy! My girlfriend and I left at the intermission.

  10. C says:

    As always, the visuals at ART were really satisfying; the lighting, set design, economical use of effects with incredibly powerful results (the rain, the water). The play was made contemporary while calling on timeless themes, which worked very well and was also really satisfying. These were the strengths of the production, along with its fluidity.

    The acting however, was varied. Was the actor playing Nina directed to overact as an ironic move? Or was that Chekov’s intent? That’s my ignorance. Either way, it was stressful and uninteresting, especially when the response from other characters lacked dimension as well. If it was Chekov’s intent, is there another way to achieve this? I wonder if she’s a better actor than was apparent. The male lead had a special vulnerable quality which gave him a kind of eloquence and power, but much of the raging and emotional pain he expressed came out as just that and not as integrated into the fabric of the play, or as textured as I would have hoped. More tension between characters and less energy directed toward outbursts would have been more interesting. As a result the spectacle of the Guns n Roses segment was at first a relief and added to “realness”, then quickly became a device that was too relied upon and a bit forced.

    Regardless, the courage to produce a work of this depth and complexity, is astounding and I applaud all the hard work put into this production.

  11. Kris says:

    SO glad you asked how we like the play. We HATED it. Comapred it to being in jail with waterboarding. So self-indulgent and non-engaging. What were they thinking?
    We were in the front row, which is a terribly obstructed view because the stage is raised to hold the water effects. We nearly broke our necks trying to see, and ultimately gave up trying because there truly was nothing worth the effort. Plus the rock music was dangerous to our hearing. So there we were, pinned in, unable to see, enduring endless kvetching dialog, with our fingers in our ears. Oh, and did I mention the side-lit stage meant that those lights shone directly into our eyes. Um, the actors were good.

  12. Y says:

    I enjoyed the visual appeal of the set–the seats, the water, the white pair of wings made for some wonderful ‘still shots’ during the play. But I am struggling to have much more positive things to say. I noticed that several people left during intermission. I think that says a lot.

    One specific criticism–I thought that including the Guns ‘n Roses song was ridiculous. There is so much independent, truly contemporary music to choose from. The director could have drawn from this to set any kind of atmosphere, any kind of energy level at the start of the second act. And instead we got a very dated, over-played song that in my opinion, worked only to the detriment of the production, not to mention being out of synch with the other music snippets that were used.

  13. Clark B says:

    We enjoyed the actors’ energy and buildup of the conflicting personal relationships in this play. The explosive personal interchanges (no pun intended) were dramatic and performed with great talent! The director’s staging was quite engaging for the audience, particularly since it was a complete departure from any Chekov stage presentation we have seen. So getting our minds around it was a continual challenge…it kept us engaged. At the end of the play we felt we had a new, satisfying understanding of Checkov’s work.

    We were a bit put off by all the water…particularly with the outside temperature below freezing! It seemed a tad overdone for effect and the actors didn’t seem to even notice as water poured on top of them from the heavens. Perhaps innovative lighting could have provided the same desired effect. The music added to the description of the many severe personal conflicts…it certainly wasn’t soothing.

    The bottom line for us was: we greatly enjoyed the production and salute the Director for his creativity and the actors for their enery and skill. This was one of the best ART productions we have seen.

  14. Susan says:

    I loved it–the production showed the universality of The Seagull. The sound design was fabulous.

  15. E says:

    The luckiest character in this play is the seagull who doesn’t have to live through the entire production. You should not sell the front row seats at full price in this production – they are too obstructed view. Even with the obstructed view I found the production a disappointing one-dimensional portrayal of characters – maybe that is the author’s point, but not sure. The visuals would work more as a music video than as theater. And it seemed like the production worked too hard to fill up the stage space – I spent more time watching the stage hands passing out suitcases and moving the blocks of seats than I did following the dialogue.

  16. JCE says:

    The “cinematic” nature of Szasz’s work clearly came through in this production, though at times it was hard not to feel that the audience’s experience was being manipulated into the director’s vision. The constant underscoring and repeated use of spotlights were two elements of this production that I feel altered the viewing experience more so than was necessary. Additionally, I questioned the cuts made in the script— the point at which the play chose to end fed a little too conveniently into the director’s version of Konstantin’s character.

    There were also a few elements of this production that felt indulgent in many respects. The ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ segment was certainly enjoyable, but felt perhaps a bit like an element that was more fun for the director than an element that enhanced (or was supported by) the text.

    That being said, Szasz’s direction certainly pushed the envelope creatively, and a new interpretation of a classic (even if it is a problematic interpretation) is ultimately a healthy thing. A “theatre of the future” would and should account for artistic freedom and experimentation, and the challenges and problems that arise from such endeavors are the basis for growth and progress in art.

  17. Lajos Heder says:

    I thought the production was superb. It reached the level of my previous ART favorite, Mother Courage. Gratulálok, Szász János mester!
    The way this production split the audience reaction is fascinating. “B”‘s suggestion, that younger audiences are more likely to appreciate it makes me an anomaly, but maybe seeing all the experimental theater in the 60’ies made this performance easier to get into. Over my 30 years in the audience I have found many ART performances intellectually and visually challenging but emotionally flat. Seagull did an amazing job of engaging me fully on all those levels. The device of the moving seats is brilliant, changing the actors’ space on the vast stage, focusing attention, always right on, never intrusive. The lighting and sound made a beautiful, unified environmental experience. The giant icons and the seagull wings are sure to show up in my future dreams. The actors of the company made a fine ensemble, kept a great rhythm. Read Louise Kennedy in today’s Globe for the rest, she is right on.
    Many thanks to all who created this production.

  18. Olga and Aslan says:

    If this production had been shown in Moscow, it would have been a tremendous
    success. We (both Russians originally, who have lived in the US for 12 years
    now, have seen the play in Moscow theaters as well) were both struck by how well the actors played and by the incredible work of the director. We came to the show with a very skeptical attitude, afraid that we would not recognize anything from Chekhov. But our skepticism
    disappeared fast and soon we found ourselves so absorbed by the play that it
    was almost mesmerizing. Some people say, there was a lot of shouting, but
    look – this is a tragedy with very intense feelings and passions and the
    actors conveyed those feelings amazingly well. Perhaps, we are so used to
    see cold-blooded murders on TV screens that we fail to see tragedy in a
    mother’s jealousy and hatred toward her own son?

    The only disappointment for us was the cold applause of the audience at the
    end… The appreciation of the show is very likely to be influenced by
    cultural differences much more than the quality of the actors or of the
    director. In any case, we hope people do not miss a chance to see this performance.

  19. Diane Novetsky says:

    While exploring innovative approaches to classic theater is commendable, indeed, it’s what often draws us to the ART, we were disappointed with the quality of theater we saw Friday evening.

    The direction seemed over-the-top: it was extremely over-acted, most of the cast were portrayed on the verge of hysteria, there was little subtlety or nuance to be found.

    The visual production was distracting from the themes and plot, and often just plain irritating. It seemed like stage hands or actors were moving rows of theater seats at every pause or change in scene.

    I’m sorry to say that we were among those who fled the theater at intermission. Our response to the shouting, water torture, and chaos was to seek relative sanity, albeit frigid temperatures outside.

  20. My wife says that it was well acted, innovatively staged, but that the play had a somewhat superficial mood.

    I thought that the staging effectively repositioned the action into a contemporary, punk setting without the artificiality that sometimes results from these sorts of productions. That is, the Seagull in this staging for the most part seems like it could have been written today. The visuals onstage were minimal but effective and sometimes striking, especially the puddles and rainfall. The acting was uniformly strong, and the performance of the play within the play was marvelous in capturing its dreamy but almost over-the-top quality.

    Yet, I did not find myself emotionally engaged with the production. I could appreciate the production intellectually and aesthetically, but I saw the characters more clinically than compassionately. Unlike the director, I couldn’t empathize with Konstantin.

    I appreciated the director’s vision and imagination, and I would go to see another play that he directed. Thanks, ART.

  21. I forgot to mention in my first posting that I agree with the other people on this board who think that front-row seats should be sold as obstructed view. My wife is 5′ 2″ and could barely see anything in her front-row seat. Fortunately, we were able to move back a row and have good sight lines of the stage (except when rows of seats on the stage were pushed in front of us–then it would have been good to have been farther back so that we could have seen over those seats).

  22. Martha Slocum says:

    I loved the set design, especially the ceiling panels, and the water elements worked well although I would have liked less of a down pour. Fears of electrocution passed briefly. The acting all seemed fairly one dimentional. For some characters this was fine, others this was a contradiction to their character. Editing could have kept the pace more engaging instead of using jarring yelling and sounds to stir us. I’ll remember this play more for the visual impact than anything else. I would recommend this play to anyone interested in set design.

  23. Joanne says:

    disclaimer: i’m not a theater person and i know nothing about chekhov. i purposely didn’t read up on “the seagull” because i didn’t want toknow the whole story beforehand. in hindsight, i realize this was a mistake.

    having said that,

    i sat through the first act wondering if it was supposed to be good and i just didn’t get it. the staging was interesting but because i was so unengaged by the production, i kept thinking about how wet the actors feet must be. i guess it was a statement in and of itself but since i’ve never seen another production of this play, it was lost on me. but the icons were nice.

    the acting perplexed me and i’m glad someone else mentioned the actress playing nina character overacting. i like TV and movies so i’m accustomed to closeups where you can see what’s going on with an actor even when they don’t speak. the actors in this show seemed to be ACTING. people have mentioned the shouting, but what about all the running in and running out at the beginning? konstantin was okay but again, the emoting made me think of a high school play. the old man was the only one i could watch without cringing.

    and did anyone else have difficulty hearing the actors?

    we left at the intermission because we both didn’t really care if we stayed or not. which is actually two votes to go home. today though, i do wish we had stayed to see it through out of curiosity.

    so maybe it was really great and i just didn’t get it, but i kinda don’t think so.

  24. Janet says:

    We were disappointed. Louise Kennedy’s review in the Globe had us expecting so much more… The water on stage was a distraction, and all the yelling made it impossible for nuance – as a result, the characters were one dimensional – and the actors on stage are much more talented than they seemed to be in this play. The show became tiring – not challenging. I did like re-imagining the era – it could have been really brilliant.

  25. c says:

    When did ART become a home for mediocrity? The current production of The Seagull is reminiscent of a high school performance that you have to sit through because someone you know is in the cast. Is there anyone at ART who remembers the challenging theatre we used to see on Brattle Street?

  26. Carolyn Gregory says:

    This ART production of The Seagull was very dynamic, metaphorical and poetic, not in the least static as has been mentioned in several other viewers’ comments. I thought the acting was terrific across the board and I loved the peculiar mix of extreme tragedy and humor. The stage device of the movable seats and water symbol were ingenious and helped stitch the long play together. I found the pacing good and am delighted that I had a chance to see another brilliant production by Janos Szasz, whose prior ART productions of Marat/Sade, Uncle Vanya and Desire Under the Elms were full of life and passion. I count Szasz’s ART production of Marat/Sade several years ago as the single BEST play I have ever attended. Kudos.

  27. Yana Rathman says:

    The play exceeded my expectations. I am from Russia originally, and went to see it mostly because of my teen aged son, not expecting much form the “Americanized” version, but it proved me wrong. Seeing it from the new angle was refreshing and it certainly got through to the younger viewers. Thank you for not making me sit through yet another classic interpretation.

  28. Sumner Brown says:

    The tobacco smoke was awful. You can stage productions without real food, without real blood, and without real sex. There is no need to inflict tobacco smoke on the audience.

  29. Bob Stains says:

    Overall, disappointing. The staging was creative and interesting, but the acting and direction were generally poor, with the exception of Pyotr, which was played brilliantly. I agree with many of the other comments: having folks jump around with over-wrought expressions, faux weeping, cliche “insane laughing” while blowing smoke and shouting at one another prevented any real connection by the audience (at least this sample of two) with the characters, and it made it difficult to imagine any character caring for another. That lack of caring and connection on stage drained the production of any genuine tension that it might have had.

  30. Heidi says:

    Just awful. We left at intermission. Really disappointing for the AMREP after Aurelia’s Oratorio. Pick it up AMREP as I may not join again next year!

  31. Carolibe Ready says:

    I have read the commentary of my fellow ART participants and I can find identification with most comments, however I have to say that my heart ached for the sadness of the story. The Seagull symbol was most effective, as the destroyed natural bird, the stuffed replica that was hardly a replacement for the living seagull,and the Giant “Angel Wings” set at the head of the bed as the actor quietly dies.

    The shifting rows of seats swung across the stage was a bit disconcerting, but it did set up the idea of audiences viewing the drama.
    The giant religious icons on the ceiling were magnificent as in a Cathedral and .speak of a Russian culture somewhat different from our own.

    I did not think the acting was either overdone or frozen but was well done and appropriate.

    I love the ART because the productions are amazing and stimulating.
    Bravo Mr Szasz!
    The play is full of the deepest sorts of human passion

  32. My experience at the “the Seagull” was varied. I brought six very capable high school students to to the show and could not help seeing the production partly through their eyes. I did not expect to see a Museum Recreation of the original. I was excited to see some understanding that Chekov himself viewed most of his plays as farce. There is a certain amount of relief when we can see how ludicrous the tragedies are which we bring upon ourselves. I explained some of that to my students before going, saying, “If you feel like laughing at characters go ahead. This will most likely not be the popular response by audience members around you. If you feel moved by the tragic moments, and there should be some, allow yourself to wallow in that, It is one of the Russian conditions that Chekov both indulges, and satirizes with brilliance.” As aresult I really liked the show until the two years later sign came out. Not that I minded the sign itself, nor any of the other modern anachronisms, on the contrary, “New Forms” seemed to be called for; but after this moment the play lost its sense of humor, it also lost its pacing and began to stumble into a self indulgent rant with out connection between characters.
    During the Play within the Play with in the play I appreciated the “poor acting” of Nina playing a poor actor. I also appreciated the good acting of the actor playing the character of Nina, during the rest of the first part. However, there seemed to be a directorial choice to have her play a bad actor again in the end. She does begin to recite some of Konstantin’s old plays at him, and I am sure she means to torture him with the triviality and pretenciousness of his “New Forms”, so there is a justifiable argument for the choice. However, the result was that the climax of the play was anti-climatic. It flat out dragged for me. It did not resolve or even dissolve. It just slowed down and kevetched itself to death. What a pity, I loved most of the rest. Loved the theatre rows movement, loved the lighting and the iconoclastic wars, sort of hated the rain in a line that all needed to stand in, couldn’t figure out why the beautiful ceiling panel needed to become a back drop, loved the guitar rifle on the mountain of suitcases, but oh god the pace at the end!!!

  33. Julia Lockwood says:

    My husband and I were at our first ART production this past weekend. We absolutely loved the Seagull! I came with no prior knowledge of Chekov or of this play. I was in fact expecting something a bit more “classic” and was afraid that I might be bored. No such fate! I thought the production was fascinating. The staging was most interesting, the water, the lights, the music, and Icons, the wings- i think all worked great. The acting especially of the old man was terrific, but I think Konstantin and his mother were very credible also. I enjoyed viewing the ensemble on stage, coming and going, convening and reconvening in new pairs and trios with always changing intrigues. I found myself interested in and sympathetic toward all of them. The one exception I will have to say was Nina, whose acting in the first half was good enough for the part, but I felt her acting in the last act was not credible. i.e. Konstantin’s pain however was credible. One question I have: I found myself laughing a lot through the show,, but no one around me was, so I felt embarrassed. Wasn’t a lot of it funny- why didn’t the audience realize that??? I think Chekov intended humor along with the tragedy, such is part of the greatness. Julia Lockwood

  34. Clifford Piper says:

    Watching the play, I thought “how stupid to do that.” Several moments of flinching or cringing. Yes, the cast was fine as was their acting. Masha was too punk and nasty for my taste. Irina overdid the mannerisms. Dear old Sorin was marvelous.
    But, the production, set and sound/music were way off, annoying and distracting. I hated all the rolling around of seat rows and the splashing around in puddles in rubber boots. The sound and music were excessively loud and melodramatic. The business of all the luggage and Konstantin throwing it around in a rage was rediculous. Many shticks of stage busyness were simply over-the -top and foolish. The ending was changed so Konstantin shot himself on stage and the others were off stage. The scene with the last lines by the doctor was thus omitted. Why?
    I have been a theater goer since 1966 and have seen and read a great many plays, Including Chekhov’s. Seeing this, I thougt of Mark Twain’s bit of humour, ” Golf is a good walk ruined.” This, I thought, is a good play ruined. Oh, and I thought the set was a disaster for this play.
    Thanks for asking what I thought.

  35. Carolyn says:

    It was worth trudging through the snowstorm to see the amazing scene between Nina and Trigorin at the end of Act 1. Stanislavsky and Chekov would be proud. Unfortunately, I should have left at intermission as the second act acting, with the exception of the supporting character actors, was painfully off target. Madame Arkadin is a rehash of every part this favorite actress plays at the ART. Are there no other actresses in Cambridge? This seems to have become vanity casting of the same core group over and over. I’m finally bored with them.

    As for the staging, it hit the mark in some moments but not all.

    Nina’s legendary scene at the end missed totally. Go read the script and recognize what has happened to her and what state she is in mentally. Konstantin’e suicide is not hysterical as played, but out of the depths of despair as he realizes the destruction of his love and the world he lives in.

    The notes posted by Mark Effinger are pompous and incorrect. Checkov was not just writing farce. Wake up.

    How I wish I could have seen Kristin Scott Thomas’ production of The Sea Gull. Reverence is what is needed.

  36. J. A. McSwain says:

    As always at ART, I found the acting in this production outstanding. I cannot say the same for the set. Some of it worked. The rolling rows of chairs did not.

    Above all, the very very worst part of this production was the cigarette smoke. I lost count how many of the cast lit up on stage. I kept hoping each cigarette was the last. Miserably, the smoke drifted back to us for most of the show. It is disgraceful ART is supportive of this self-destructive, unhealthy behavior to this extent. It is unforgivable to subject the audience to breathing polluted air for two and a half hours.

  37. Daniel Horan says:

    My fiance and I thought the play was terrible. We are both still very young and it did not at all appeal to us in the least, and admittedly we were hoping for something “classic”. This board is a great idea because it helps me understand what was wrong with the play.

    I was not familiar with The Seagull before the play and had mainly forgotten Chekov since my last exposure to him in high school ten years ago. The comments on the board helped me understand the utter failure that was the “punk” undating and the constant, inane and character-snuffing shouting. As a previous commentator stated Konstantin’s suicide was hysterical and stupid, and to end the play on that poor note was the artistic equivalent of having to watch a self-hating teenager fall in love and end up only groping himself. Thankfully, this board has helped me to forgive Chekov but I don’t know if I can forgive the ART, as this was my first time attending a play there.

    P.S. I think the cigarettes were an AWESOME idea! Far more drama has been generated on this board about that issue than was produced in 2 1/2 hours of the show I suffered through on Saturday.

    Daniel

  38. GeorgeS says:

    Dear Carolyn,
    The Seagull is one word. Maybe you should “wake up.”
    In other words, thanks American Repertory Theatre for another outstanding production. It was heart-wrenching and hysterical at all the right moments and I think effectively recreated a classic in modern sentiment and terminology. This is how “timeless” theatre should really be done.
    Thanks,
    George

  39. Eliza says:

    I agree with Toma. I thought the performance was very entertaining. To me, the over-the-top emotional hysterics seemed consistent with the rock-and-roll perspective on teenage angst. All the air guitar and chest beating in the rain left me with a little smile that helped me through the dark content of the story. I really appreciated the small dose of farce.

  40. Karen says:

    This was our first REP show in Boston and we were quite disappointed. Overall, we just didn’t enjoy the show at all … it was over-acted/poorly acted; so much shouting. We were never ‘pulled in’ by the storyline or the individual characters. We’ll give a nod to the simple set design with the water effects and rolling props. Since we didn’t feel the ‘draw’ of the story, we left at intermission.

    We will give the REP two more chances, since we purchased a few shows in advance. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll enjoy the next ones.

  41. Toma says:

    Providing this forum for comment is terrific – thanks ART.

    Is anyone else surprised by the extremely wide range of reaction to this show?

    Does anyone else find the “threats” off-putting (e.g., you get two more chances; or “we may not join again”)? I’m fascinated by the love/hate responses to nearly every aspect of the show (acting, direction, staging, lighting, music, props, etc) but could do without the almost-angry threats…

  42. As a member of the A.R.T. staff I am delighted to read all these comments, and glad that our wonderful production does elicit such a wide range of responses… that’s what great theatre is all about. Those of you who are outraged by our supposed use of cigarettes can rest easy – of course they are not real – we abide the non-smoking rules as everyone else. I feel sorry for those folk who chose to leave the theatre just for that reason… they missed a great second act.

  43. R says:

    a fabulous production! imaginative, lively- excellent translation– and script that could actualy be understood. A real change from the pretentious mumbling that usually passes for Chekov as played at the ART. Here, in the Seagull, Jan 23.the actors delivered their lines with passion and understanding! Miracle of miracles, they actually projected! No muttering and mumbling. We could both see and hear them! !!!! It was deep, funny, tragic, inspired. The set ,lighting, sound designs were imaginative- a new take that worked, with every nuance of feeling portrayed. As to views of what constitutes theatre, that will go on forever. But for this production, all congratultions to this innovtave director and the wonderful group of actors who presented the play. Irina, Pyotr,Konstantin, Tregorin, Masha -hats off! You were superb.

  44. John Langell says:

    From “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969), based on the original strip by Charles M. Shulz. The characters are lying on their backs looking at the sky.

    LUCY: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you could see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

    LINUS: Well, those clouds up there look to me like the map of the British Honduras in the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins the famous painter and sculptor, and that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the “Stoning of Stephen”; I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.

    LUCY: Uh huh that’s very good, what do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

    CHARLIE BROWN: Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey but I changed my mind.

  45. Susan Lyon says:

    I thought it was a GREAT production and I’m disappointed for you at the nasty comments people feel they can express so openly about your production. One of the things I love about the ART is that I never know what to expect. It’s very fun to see a play staged so unusually and then to see where it goes. There is a lot of yelling, I will grant others that, but it seemed that since part of the play’s tone was farcical, this yelling played right into that. I will keep coming to your productions in any case!

  46. Michael Frankel says:

    Completely foolish. I do not even know where to begin. I am completely embarrassed that ART would think this is worthy production…

  47. Marcia Booth says:

    Amazing production.
    No, we don’t care about anyone during the first act but that’s the point. These are not likable people. Anna Deava Smith would certainly concur with the thought that a world without loving people, graceful people may be one that would drive us to dispair. It might even immerse us in a sense of inescapable “Terror, Terror Terror.”
    Contrast this with the peaceful reflections of rippling water on the ceiling during particularly moving exchanges.
    At one point in Act One, the moving about of those rows and rows of theatre seats resulted in a flowing sense of choreography with arrestingly graceful juxtapositions of moving human bodies against the static of lumbering pieces of furniture.
    Thank you.

  48. Ehud Schmidt says:

    My wife and I left at the intermission. This play was like a high-school play, in that it used cheap pieces to “appeal to the audience” , such as punk clothing, scenes with sexual suggestiveness, and old men issuing silly remarks. It reminded me a bit of the movie in which Richard Dreyfuss played, where they made a mockery of one of Shakespeare’s plays, since they needed the commercial venture to fail.
    This play was far below the level of the great other plays ART has given this season. It also made a joke out of Checkov’s play, which we have seen and enjoyed numerous times in the past. Modernizing old plays can work beautifully, but this attempt missed out entirely.

    regards

    ehud

  49. Joe says:

    I thought the production was sophomoric and incoherent. The second act slightly better than the first. Directorial choices were obscured and seemed random. There was no attempt at character development and hence motives, intentions and behavior remained unexplored and unexplained.

  50. Concord says:

    I left during intermission to go home and read Chekov without the shouting, groping, whining, posturing, blasting, and belching. It was either go home or borrow Treplev’s gun to shoot myself. I’m not asking for a refund; but if this is a typical ART production, then I’ll keeping reading plays as closet dramas.

  51. J Pizzazz says:

    This was one of the worst performances I have ever attended. Certainly the worst professionally-produced performance. I blame the director.

    Let me elaborate.

    The acting was almost universally one-noted. As another poster noted, the characters shouted at each other the entire first act. When, near the end of the first act, the line “shut up” is yelled, an audience member clapped in agreement during the performance.

    The set was distracting. Having the non-performing actors remain on stage may have been avant garde at one point, but it was merely distracting and annoying. It certainly did nothing to add to the now trite self-indulgent views of theatrical future. Contrast with the tipping stage in the ART’s recent production of No Exit, where a similarily self-conscious unusual staging was powerful and contributed to the experience; here, the constant turning and shifting of the on-stage rows of seats and splashing through puddles did not rise above merely irritating.

    The sound design was amateurish. The song selections were sophomoric — as one example, of the thousands of guitar-heavy rock songs, I can list a dozen that would have been better, as “Sweet Child of Mine” had nothing to do with the themes of the play. Most of the time, the sound was TOO LOUD and drowned out the stage action. When sound fx were faded out, they nearly always faded too quickly. It was more like a laugh track to a sitcom than an interesting, experimental, supportive component to a modern production. The actors should have been microphoned so that they weren’t straining the entire production (clearly the director has NO IDEA how fatiguing it is to listen to a group of people shout for 2 hours).

    Given the puddles on stage, the lighting designer did not work with them very well at all.

    Given the modernisation of the costuming, why not modernize the text as well?

    Why not completely modernize the props? (Laptops but fin-de-siecle chandeliers?)

    The flashlight was pathetic. You could not tell what it was pointed at.

    There were so many horrible design choices made (lighting, staging, sound, acting, blocking), that the only conclusion is that the director is to blame.

    I’ve seen great things done in the Loeb and at the X. This was by far the worst.

  52. Damian Isla says:

    A lot is explain by the revelation that the play’s director is primarily a film director — he seemed far more interested in creating images than in exploring the meaning of this very complex work by Chekov. In so doing, I think the point was missed entirely.

    I took my wife and two friends to see the play, very eager to introduce them to one of my favorite Chekov works, only to find them looking at each other by the end, and asking themselves “what the hell was THAT?” What was the meaning of the Guns n’ Roses thrown in there? What was the meaning of the shirtless-screaming-into-the-rain sequence? What was the meaning of the christian icon that descends from the ceiling when Petruska dies? We’re left to conclude that these don’t mean ANYTHING. They are simply “images”. Well I find that very unfortunate, because Chekov is about words, and the Seagull, like a number of his works, is about the juxtaposition of high and noble ideals in conversation (“talk, talk, talk”) with the dirty, mundane reality of life in the country, the ignorant servants, the vulgar farmhand, the lack of a horse. This production loses this juxtaposition entirely.

    It is also ironic given the play-within-the-play in Act 1. Konstantin’s audience derides his oeuvre for its pretension, it’s ambiguity, it’s “symbolism”. It seems that this production fell into the same trap that Konstantin did.

  53. Betty Z says:

    With all the useless smoking, constant screaming, every character crawling around on the wet floor, terrible costumes that didn’t fit any specific timeline, Guns n Roses tribute that didn’t belong to the story at all, rape, and loss of any innocence from Chekov’s play…this was the most dissapointing production I have seen at the A.R.T.
    The 4 people I came with all wanted to leave after the first act, but out of respect for the theater, we stayed…it was the wrong decision.

  54. BSul says:

    The director missed the mark. In an attempt to revitalize the theatre and to develop a modern sensibility for Chekov, the director actually dated himself. What’s hip about including a rock and roll icon, using Axel Rose’s 1990’s music, and affecting the goth look which is so passe. The matinee audience consisted of 70 somethings. Maybe it was new to them.
    The director’s first allegiance is to the playwright. Next to the audience. Speak the words in a clear and apparent progression that makes sense to the viewer. It was a struggle in this production to figure out the connections between the characters. That needed to be readily obvious to the average viewer. Much was lost because the tight, claustrophobic society and intertwined relationships were not there. Tommy Derrah as the doctor was a slapstick parody of a character. Where was the importance of the doctor’s stature in that society and the abuse of power he used over women. The real horror would have been seen if his position in their group was made clear rather than having him prance about with modern sexual movements which were silly and not evil. I blame the director. Derrah can act. Someone coached him to prance about.
    The overall production was clunky. All the moving around of the theatre seats was not innovative. It was distracting and time consuming, a conceit of the director and set designer. Nina’s entrance was prolonged;someone actually had to assist her and she couldn’t focus on her lines for fear of falling. And the water on stage! Having the actors splash through it was a distraction. Sometimes directors fall in love with their ideas and concepts and forget to see the audience’s point of view. When the main character threw all of the suitcases into the water, it did not advance the character or his motivation or Chekov’s play (theme). It was just an extended contrivance which merely served to distract the audience from the character’s real pain and suffering.

    The supreme irony was when Irina called her son a symbolist because that’s what the director was. He hit us over the head with symbols to make sure we got the point. Carrying around the clunky wings (which got in the actor’s way and distracted the viewer), rolling Marsha in a wheelchair so we understood that she is an invalid, and using a microphone to emphasize K’s rock status were not innovative devices. They were tired and worn out.

    With that said, I still found relevance in the words and that made it all worth while.

  55. L. says:

    I loved this production and am mystified at the respondents who hated it with such venom, I keep wondering about them. Most of them don’t seem to be stupid. Are they just tone deaf to any production that does not fit their preconception? These people seem so angry and disappointed, maybe even frightened, way beyond being critical of the play. The Seagull, as written by Chekov, is a very strange play, it is terribly stifled trying to wear traditional Victorian direction, staging and costumes. For this reason Szasz’ production seemed organically right. I believe Chekov would be absolutely fascinated by it. My advice, which will probably be ignored, is to go see it again and try to keep an open mind.

  56. JD says:

    Actors had amazing energy. Moving the thearter seats was a good idea to involve us, but a bit distracting after a while. Rain act was wonderful. The sexual symbolism and energy was great. Irina stole the show. I’m sure a lot of hard work went into this play, great effort. Glad to see a range of comments, that is why thearter still exists. To invoke, to hate, to love.

  57. N says:

    I have been attending ART productions since the company first moved to Cambridge from New Haven. So, needless to say, I am very open to new ideas about staging Chekhov (or any of the great classics, for that matter). But I am afraid this production was over-hyped and missed the essential heart of the play. The acting was outstanding, for the most part, and the set/lighting/costumes were innovative in the best sense of the word. But the director lost the subtlety and irony of Chekhov’s script. Loud screaming rock music or mood music to tell us what to feel?? Quite unnecessary. In fact, the humor and pathos of the characters is overwhelmed by all the directorial gimmickry. So I was deeply disappointed to discover that yet again the ART is more concerned about being “original” than in mining the script for insight and authentic innovation.

  58. W Peck says:

    Great show! Came ready to leave by the intermission and became so involved and intrigued with its presentation that we ended up staying till the very end. Not a disappointment whatsoever!

    Interestingly, the online write-up that we had read prior to seeing the show almost made us not go whatsoever. Glad we decided to see it for ourselves!

  59. Daniel Horan says:

    Reading more of the comments made me reconsider my opinion of the play. Someone above posted that the director fell into the same trap that Konstantin did in the play. But perhaps we underestimated the director?

    I’m starting to imagine he intentionally transformed Chekov’s masterpiece into an absolutely horrid and nearly senseless assault on our physical and artistic sensibilities because he wanted to live the ultimate irony and “be” the Konstantin he was trying to bring to life. He intentionally directed this play to fail in every way so he could become the Konstantin he was trying to create.

    If you look at it from that perspective, we his critics on this board in real life are his stifling mother, those who approve of him are that lifeless goth-dressed wanna-be, and the play Konstantin bombs at is the rendetition of “The Seagull” we all suffered through recently.

    If you look at it from that perspective our director Jonas Szasz becomes Konstantin, we are his audience, his mother, his admirer, his lover that spurns him and the real paly is being acted out now and is not yet complete. The play we went to see was not meant to be viewed as a 2 1/2 hour performace on a Saturday afternoon so to speak. Rather, it is to be understood as the director’s initiation of us into a “real life” Seagull where he is Konstantin and the audience members make up the remaining cast. We are still acting out the real drama, each playing our perfectly scripted role.

    If the director intended this awesome, almost metaphysical experience than we have misjudged him and he’s getting a bad rap. If the director, however just accidently stumbled into this AWESOME gut-wrenching irony, then I’m sorry Konstantin, your mother still hates your play and as far as I know that is not going to change.

  60. ckrakoff says:

    Wow. Daniel, let me get this straight. Szasz intentionally presented a wretchedly self-indulgent production of a great play so he could become the central character putting on a wretchedly self-indulgent performance of his own (very bad) play. Instead of watching a play within a play we the audience have become the cast of the “outer play” – Chekhov’s The Seagull – watching Konstantin/Szazs’s play. All very cutting edge, when Pirandello was doing this sort of thing 90 years ago. Perhaps the director could have upped the ante by actually shooting himself onstage, thus sparing us any future performances as a partial redemption of this otherwise tragic, senseless, and self-indulgent act.

  61. Daniel Horan says:

    Yes, that is what I meant crakoff. Thanks for putting it so pithily.

  62. cgdraper says:

    All in all, a fairly typical ART production — that is, one in which the production values all but overwhelm whatever text the playwright may have left behind for future generations to intepret. I had mixed feelings about this production as I have had for three decades about every ART production I’ve ever attended. But I come back to the Loeb again and again for precisely that experience. Look, if someone takes “The Lady and the Lap Dog” and cuts it up, rearranges paragraphs, changes the language, and eliminates the final three paragraphs, the reader has a right to protest. But, folks, The Seagull is theater. Are you offended by cigarette smoke? Think it unlikely that Arkadina and her son would end up lying in each other’s arms on the floor? Don’t like puddles, or rain drops falling on your head? Well, Jezum Crow, I can get you cheap tickets to a performance of Arsenic and Old Lace coming to a theater near you soon. Me, I think I’ll go see Endgame.

  63. ckrakoff says:

    cgdraper, of course The Seagull is theater. But there is good theater and bad theater, and good and bad don’t line up neatly with innovative and stodgy or new and old or experimental and traditional. You don’t have to dress up in Elizabethan costume to do justice to Shakespeare and you don’t need to have white muslin dresses and cravats and birch trees to do Chekhov. But you do need to be true to the language and the essence of the original. Any director who tries too hard to dazzle with his own self-perceived brilliance does a huge injustice to the playwright and comes off as shallow and self-absorbed. Of course, ever since the first performance of The Rite of Spring in 1913, people haven’t wanted to appear too bourgeois, so they nod sagely and applaud vigorously at the most appalling tripe as long as it tries to pass itself off as avant-garde. Szazs is either a true Philistine who believes he is making art or a crass huckster laughing up his sleeve at the gullibility of the rubes. Either way, I’d rather go see Endgame, though not necessarily at the ART.

  64. Curtis says:

    I enjoyed the production very much. I agree with pretty much everything Mark Efiinger‘s comment says, positive and negative, though I think I appreciated the rain more (at least the actual scenes, the shirtless floor banging seemed more motivated by the need to cover the clearing of luggage than to tell the story).

    I haven’t read them all but I’m amused by some of the complaints. I defend the choice of GnR and could go into specifics why but will refrain. To repeat what a staff commenter already wrote, THEY DID NOT SMOKE REAL CIGARETTES.

  65. Mark says:

    Saw the 1/29 production and greatly enjoyed it. Knew very little about the (original) play in advance, and this was also my first A.R.T. event, so I had no expectations either way. I was challenged, stimulated, entertained — visually and otherwise. I and those I went with were still discussing it this morning which, to me, is a sign of having experienced something interesting. I felt it was a brave, risky interpretation, which is what art should be, I believe. Would I recommend it universally to everyone I know? Of course not — not this or any piece of art.

  66. Jean & John Lisien says:

    You don’t go to ART if you want the classics. ART is always interpretive and that’s why we go. I appreciated the set which was comptemporized and interesting – especially the movable seats-which might wake you up just in case you…well you know. The second act dragged, we were waiting for Konstantin to just kill himself already. By the end, I hated all the characters except the mother and the old man (he died without making a fuss). I’m glad we weren’t as inwardly angry as the rest of troop else I might have ran up the stage and shot Konstantin myself. I hope this is not a statement of who we’ve become as a society: self absorbed, obssessed with financial status, and consumed with one’s own greatness or lack thereof. The characters got meaner in the second act, but basically remained unchanged…so why did we need the second act?

  67. Anthony says:

    I don’t think that every production of Chekov needs to be full of period-costume mumblers, but I think I’d prefer that over a Nina that constantly sounds hypnotized (her intoning for Konstantin’s show was great, but then it just… kept… going) and a Konstantin who has to dramatically grunt every time he throws a suitcase. With so much capital-A ACTING going on, you’d never guess that Chekov was renowned for subtlety.

    When a production of The Seagull is true, the characters are quietly hilarious and charming even as they break. But the only laughing I did at this production was at shirtless screaming Konstantin, his air guitar, and every other absurd attempt to “shake things up” rather than tell a story (any story!). It was just awkward.

  68. Susan Ebert says:

    Deeply disappointing. I thought that the ART had gone beyond waterplay and smoke — this brings back bad memories of productions years ago.

    I found the production disjointed, terribly overplayed and endless.

  69. Bill says:

    In disagreement with most comments, I thought this was ART at its best. It showed me Chekov in new and refreshing way. Some of the acting was a bit over-the-top, but when done with so much panache who cares. Bravo to ART for continually pushing the envelope. Sometimes doesn’t work but always makes most of rest of Boston theater scene look unimaginative.

  70. Jane says:

    I saw the matinee performance today (Jan.31) and I thought this was one of the best productions of Chekhov I’ve ever seen. A brilliant interpretation that captured something essential to the play – something much deeper than period costumes and those notorious Chekhovian pauses…. The ART cast and director really grasped the essence of what Chekhov was struggling with, and brought it vividly, physically, emotionally to life. I thought the production did absolute justice to Chekhov. People who complain about not having seen the ‘real’ Chekhov in ART’s production are locked in the same prison of form that Arkadina is. When the cast was sitting in those theater seats looking at us, I thought WE were the ones on the spot: are we willing to let go of our preconceptions and expectations to really experience the anguish and pain of the play? WONDERFUL production, opening Chekhov once again to that vulnerable, difficult place where you’re laughing and crying at the same moment. I was in tears at the end. THANK YOU!

  71. Andy says:

    The acting was so unconvincing and dull and the production so often ridiculously overwrought and distracting that I briefly entertained the notion that Szaz and the company purposefully perpetrated lifeless caricatures. After all, I have seen some of these actors perform respectably. Fortunately, I could hear Chekhov words, and I reenacted the play in my mind while trying not to laugh or boo at the performance in front of me. Did the original cast drown or get pneumonia from slopping around on stage? My only consolation after sitting through the seemingly endless tossing of luggage and the clumsy reliance on suitcases as props is that the director and cast will find happiness and solid employment as baggage handlers at Logan.

  72. sandra says:

    left during the intermission to get a coffee from around the corner. By the time we got our coffees and made our way back to the theatre the intermission was over. We had to make the choice: miss the second act or leave our as of yet untouched coffees. We left our coffees in the lobby. What a mistake that was! after the second act we were so distraught that we went outside and crawled around in some puddles shouting at passersby.

  73. Nan says:

    Here’s a thought: Was this the Russian version of Springtime for Hitler?
    P.S. Daniel Horan, will you marry me?

  74. Martha Cutter says:

    I like Chekov, but he sometimes needs to be edited for pace–to keep the production moving. Jonas Szasz did not (as far as I can tell) do this. I think tighter pacing & editing would have moved the play along.

    I did like the modernization of the script, and the “Gus & Roses” solo was very interesting (although not in character for that character). But overall I found the production overlong & overwrought. I am an English professor and see a lot of plays, and this was not up their with the better ones I have seen lately.

    Also, can’t they offer any cheaper tickets? When all is said and done, we paid $75 per person (with a $10.00 WBUR discount),which is more than I have paid in NYC. The “cheap seats” were around $55–not very cheap. How ’bout some $10 spots, as Hartford stage does, or even $25? Anyone at ART reading this? If so please contact me and let me know why you can’t offer tickets under $55. I wonder if ART does read this comments? Love to hear more about your pricing structure, if so.

    Martha Cutter

  75. Martha Cutter says:

    p.s.–My dad, a psychiatrist, said he was never more happy to see a suicide actually happen!

  76. polkabiker says:

    Bunch of white people yelling at each other. Painful.

  77. Don S says:

    I read a range of responses. That’s what makes live theater so great; it is personal. One person’s love is another person’s hate. This production worked for me. Chekov felt immediate and raw. I was moved by the characters, even as I was repelled by their flaws. The vitality of the production, the physicality of the performers, the strange set all came together for me, enhancing the depth of feeling for the play. I even liked the many ways water was used as prop. It took me a couple of minutes to settle in and ride with the concept and yes, the program notes were an essential help. I doubt that you could really figure all that out on your own. It’s a matter of timing and receptivity, but, it really struck a nerve for me. A tough, poignant, painful play. Chekov, our contemporary.

    See you at Endgame.

  78. Raffael de Gruttola says:

    The production is modern in the histrionics of it. I think Szaszs achieved what he set out to do and that is keep the audience awake and involved at different levels of participation. I think Chekov’s issues for the theatre were evident in the monolgues which completed the paradoxes of the symbol and the complexities of the characters. I think it’s an important play in the development of 20th Century theatre from the theatre of Cruelty, to the theater of the Absurd and the many and different avant garde groups that thrived in the 60s and 70s and continue to experiment with the form today.

  79. Lakshmi says:

    We were very disapointed . I slept in parts as it was very mediocre acting. I came to see a powerful melodramatic Russian play but never connected.

  80. Leo Racicot says:

    To be honest, I stopped going to the theater in the ’80s feeling that most productions are awful. I was a lifelong theatergoer and have seen some of the most magnificent work and actors ever put on a Boston or New York stage.
    I don’t know what made me take a chance on seeing “The Seagull” but I am so glad I did. The production is flawless, the actors the same (there was not a bad performance among them). I especially enjoyed the phenomenal Mickey Solis as Konstantin and
    Karen McDonald. Everyone shined so brightly and this has to be THE BEST “Seagull” I have ever seen and I have seen many.

    COngratulations to Mr. Szasz on this triumph and to a great crew both on and off the stage. BRAVO!!!

  81. marianna says:

    I was blown away by Karen McDonald, and loved everyone else, too. I loved the explosive, emotional use of the rain and the G n’ R song, and I was surprised by how emotionally connected I was to the piece considering the concept (I didn’t have any such reaction to Wings of Desire). Loved the set, the lights, the sound, the staging, everything.

    This was a great example of what happens when you mix great material with careful direction– direction with an eye to both substance and style. I feel that ART often sacrifices substance to style but this was a reminder that we can have both.

    You did however, lose me in that last 45 minutes or so. It’s a long coda after such a fun, dangerous, jubilant climax. This is of course in part, the play, but y’all weren’t honest about the running time of the show (no way was act 2 1 hr. and 10 minutes). Molly Ward is a truly mesmerizing actress but her final scene was paced horribly.

    Thanks for asking!

  82. ted kazanoff says:

    long evening of theatre. Exessive cruelty on the part of the characters, not in line with the contradictions of Chekovian people. Some very fine staging. Objected to the overdone feeling of doom and gloom. Why leave out the last scene of the discovery of Kostya’s death? May not fit with the director’s concept but it’s there.

  83. Hi Martha, yes, quite a few people from the A.R.T. read this – wonderful to know that people with such strong opinions can have such opposite experiences in the theatre….
    As to your question about having discounts – yes, of course we do!
    There are several discount programs:
    “Pay What You Can” – every tuesday at noon 50 tickets go on sale at the box office for the following Saturday matinee performance you can purchase for what you feel you can afford.
    “50 @ 15 at noon” – 50 tickets on sale at the box office for each performance, based on availability.
    $25 tickets are available for a number of performances you can buy online, details are on our website.
    If you are a student, you can purchase a student pass that will cost you $15 a ticket, and you can also buy rush tickets at the door for the same price.
    A couple of weeks ago we also had a one day sale you could buy $25 tickts for the balance of the season, but I guess you missed that one.
    I hope you will find this helpful, and hope you will check out Endgame in a couple of weeks.

  84. Sairey Luterman says:

    We thoroughly enjoyed Szasz’s interpretation of The Seagull. The water on the stage created a level of constant tension and discomfort that was brilliant. I am stunned at some of the comments! Fear of electrocution? A handful of cigarettes smoked on the stage were a reason for leaving? So now we want our art ‘cleansed’ somehow?

    I say, Bravo to cast & director!

  85. JCE says:

    After previously commenting on this thread, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting the numerous subsequent posts. The responses have been varied and many of the insights have been enlightening, whether or not I agreed with them. However, a few of the comments have made light of some of the play’s darker qualities in a way that I do not feel is relevant or productive to the nature of the forum. The recent post by Martha commenting that “My dad, a psychiatrist, said he was never more happy to see a suicide actually happen!” was particularly offensive. Several other posts have made reference to being “happy” or “relieved” by Treplev’s suicide, and another included a suggestion that the director “could have upped the ante by actually shooting himself onstage… sparing us any future performances…” These comments, making light of the very serious subject of suicide, might be offensive to some. Perhaps those who have made such comments could have thought of a more effective means to convey their distaste rather than joking about the act of suicide.
    -Jenna Clark

  86. mickey says:

    I pulled a Chekov and left during the second act.

  87. Peggy says:

    The set design was so radical and effective that I wouldn’t have cared if the acting was mediocre. However, this was not the case. The actors rose to the level occasioned by the sets and gave powerful, emotionally true performances. I want to especially call out the portrayals of Konstantin, Sorin, Trigorin, and Nina.

    There has been some discussion in these comments about the portrayal of Nina and I wish to present my view: when we first meet this character, she is a protean, unformed child. Although we see her through Konstantin’s eyes, as the “love of his life,” we the audience can see that he’s just seeing an idealized image projected on top of the real girl, and not only does he not really know her (conveniently ignoring her hesitations and reluctancies, and her incomprehension of his artistic goals); actually, he CANNOT really know her, since she isn’t anyone yet.

    For me, this summarizes Chekov: none of the characters really know or connect with each other, because they are all so involved with the idealized projections of their own fantasies. This is the tragedy, for all of them. They have moments, glimmers, and then they retreat back into their fantasy worlds, which (as in the nature of those things) become less and less satisfying, until some kind of fatal climax is reached (in the metaphorical sense – which may or may not involve actual fatality in the play).

    When Nina returns in Act IV, she IS someone – perhaps, the someone she was becoming; but at any rate, she returns shaped by the weight of real events and consequences, and can no longer be a suitable object for Konstantin’s idealization of her, despite his best efforts. Her stilted body language and confused yet assertive diction in the fourth act rang absolutely true to me; sadly, I have seen several friends experience nervous breakdowns, and that is how they sounded, and acted: an emotional atrophy that was reflected in clumsy physicality and stilted language, as if they were strangers in their own selves. Which, to some extent, they were. This is what I saw in the final Nina.

    It was to Konstantin’s credit that despite his youthful fantasies and indelible idealism he cannot deny Nina’s new, and considerably less desirable reality – and he loves her anyway. His character grows into reality, and sheds some personal idealism, without fully sacrificing his aesthetic idealism. But the tragedy is, that although he has grown and she has become real – she nevertheless refuses him again. Creating an Art of the Future is a lofty goal. But the problem is, the art of the future will be appreciated in: The Future. It can be cold comfort in The Present, especially when one’s personal life, the fallback of the artist, has fallen back itself. Without Nina, Konstantin foresees a long dreary life of effort while he waits for his art to create its own public, as Proust so accurately described, and as foreshadowed in this production’s very Laurie Anderson-sounding voiceover recapitulation of his play’s main speech. And he decides he can’t wait that long.

    I really wanted to post about how impressive I found the modular theater-seats-on-wheels, and the deconstructed set where all the actors were always on, or multi-tasking as production minions. The exposed skeleton of the production emphasized the artifice of the stage. And yet by exposing that artifice this production achieved greater emotional truth: an effective paradox, and, to my mind, really the only approach to theater in the age of film. Greater truth does not necessarily come from greater realism – sometimes, it comes from less.

  88. George Smart says:

    I loved the pure theatricality of it. The rain, the music, the oddly decaying set all created a space to get lost in for the evening. It was my first Chekhov play and I wasn’t disappointed. Great production ART.

  89. Martha Cutter says:

    Jenna Clarke,
    That’s what my dad actually said. Sorry if you don’t like it. I think everyone seeing the performance knows it was a play and not a “real suicide.” Of course no one would make fun of a real suicide death. For example, if I was making jokes here about the death of the director by suicide, I think that would be a different matter. But this is art, not life, so all parts of it should be open for interpretation, criticism, and debate, in my opinion.
    MJC

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