Highly Recommended ****
The Chicago Theatre scene is filled with brilliant new plays so I am always excited when something canonical gets produced, and one cannot get more canonical than the Chekov. I think that two consecutive production’s of Aaron Posner’s “Stupid F****** bird,” in Chicago, a modernization and deliberated bastardization of “The Seagull,” has made the time ripe for “The Seagull.” We see many of the same characters, “in mourning for their lives,” only they are back in elegant period dress (Catherine Tantillo) and 19thcentury Russia.
Director Jacylnn Jutting, although she sometimes struggled to block her actors effectively, has chosen a great translation by Christopher Hampton, and although she sometimes succeeds in the hardest task in Chekov ,which is to balance the highly comic nature of the character’s intercourse ,with the play’s tragic conclusion. She did an excellent job with the direction of the tech work as wel.l This is important as Chekov’s plays can be extremely hard to stage, especially in a smaller spaces, because they occur in more than one place. However, set (Pat Iven), Light Design (Julie Mack) and Property Design (Justin Atkinson) manage this admirably convincing us through various props and shades of lighting that we are either outside on the grounds of a vast estate or inside elegant dining rooms.
In contrast to other productions, I found Konstantin Gavriloch Treplev (Nick Hyland) extremely likable and sensitive in this production. We see someone who isn’t merely balancing an obsessive and doomed love interest with a ridiculously complication with relationship his mother Irena Nikolayevna Arkadina (the constantly elegant Kelly Lynn Hogan who is by turns biting and caring), but rather a sensitive, kind, man, truly love the ill-fated Nina Mikhalailovna Zarechnaya (Brookelyn Herbert), and who has been deliberatively forced by his mother to live in the shadow of her fame as an actress. Jessica Kingsdale as Masha delivered the opening lines concerning mourning and her life with poise, presidence, and confidence, giving us paradigm for understanding Chekov’s paradigm for his characters.
Pyotr Nikolayevich Sorin (David Elliot), and Polina Andreyevna (Denise Tamburino) embody such feeling, and there is even Boris Alexeyevich Trigorin (Michael Woods), the cad who has affairs both with Irena and her son’s love interest, Nina, and who could perhaps be to blame for Konstantin’s tragic fate, has a certain sadness to them. Consequently we are happy to sit through the emotional brutalities of the play with these characters so much warmer, kinder, level-headed, and normal but just as sad, as one usually finds in Chekov’s play (much credit to Casting Director Jessica Lauren Fisher) and fully feel the tragicomedy of the play.
Eclectic Theatre’s production of “The Seagull” runs through November 1, at the historic Athenaeum Theatre, located at 2936 N. Southport Avenue, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm with Matinee’s Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. Tickets are between 25 and 30 dollars. To purchase call 312-902-1500 or visit www.electic-theatre.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Seagull”