The Seagull at The Chance Theatre

Art, sex, and fragile dreams. Anton Chekov’s brilliant blend of comedy and tragedy comes to life in a new adaptation of his first major work, The Seagull. Richard Nelson’s new adaptation highlights the themes of the play in a way that resonates with today’s obsession with fame, relationships, and the harsh realities that they sometimes bring. Originally staged in 1896, this play was met with hostility and was deemed a critical failure. However, it is now considered one of the greatest plays and this new production at the Chance Theatre proves that classics need not be treated as museum pieces, but can still have a profound impression on its audience.

Love is the central theme of the play. Love for the creation of a new type of art and love for those who we wish to return affection. At the play’s opening, Konstantin (Dan Flapper) prepares to present his new experimental while waiting for his ingénue, Nina (Jennifer Ruckman) – with whom he is also madly in love. Enter Arkadina (Karen Webster), a famous actress of the stage and mother to Konstantin, along with her devoted admirers, which include Trigoran (Jonathon Lamer), a popular writer, her ailing brother Sorin (Glenn Koppel), the groundskeeper’s daughter Masha (Melanie Gable), who pines for Konstantin from afar. Rounding out the audience is Medvedenko (Jara Jones), whom Masha despises but considers a suitable mate in light of her station in life. And so the perpetual yearning for what is unattainable cycles through Chekov’s tragic play, echoed in Konstantin’s desire to create an art that is, as of yet, not accepted by his peers.

Tony Vezner’s direction makes for a swift interpretation that uses Nelson’s naturalistic language to full effect, while still keeping the original time period intact. The comedic elements throughout the play balances the tragic and keeps it from teetering into melodrama – a wonderfully effective result that is neither sentimental nor over the top. Ms. Gable’s deadpan characterization is an ironic portrait of humor amidst heartbreak. Jones’ awkwardness is a perfect match to her put-upon situation, even as she yearns to be closer to Konstantin.

As much as we would love to see Konstantin and Nina find some sort of happiness together, it is not to be. Flapper’s Konstantin is much too childish and temperamental, while Ruckman’s Nina, despite her naiveté, appears years beyond his reach. It is this combination that ultimately follows its inevitable trajectory.

As the closing scene ends, we’re left with a montage of these fragmented people, echoed in Shaun L. Motley’s set design of curved walls and fragmented scenery and warmly lit by Jeff Brewer’s Light design. For the Arkadinas and Konstantins of our present world, the cycle continues.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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