Opening Performance, February 26, 2012
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Written by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Libby Appel
A three-word summary review of Seagull: unfortunate play selection.
Everything about this production was well done. The actors hit the right note in everything they did. Chris Acebo’s set took inventive advantage of the New Theater’s intimacy. Deb Dryden’s clothes were rich and a nice counterpart to the early sparseness of the stage. Libby Apple directed a consistent, restrained, and intelligent vision of this Chekhov classic. Even with all the top-notch craft work, the scenes dragged and nothing interesting was revealed.
I liked the production of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchid a few years ago, so I didn’t walk into the building wondering why I was there. But, this play was too predictable and unrelievedly negative. The characters don’t develop in any significant way, bad things happen, and time moves slowly.
The cast navigated the turgid script admirably. I enjoyed seeing Tasso Feldman (Kostya) in a dramatic, not-just-a-cute-kid role. Armando Duran (Dr. Dorn) still has the looks to come off as a handsome, world weary rake. I was interested in seeing the skills of Ashland newcomer Kathryn Meisle (Irina). Michael Hume (Pyotr) did a fine job deteriorating into an old man of 60-something. And so on and so on.
These thoughts tracking the actors’ careers were going through my head during the performance. I was desperate to keep my mind going and to keep focus. The narrative was not doing it.
There were minor parts of the production I would change:
- The shiny deep blue of the stage didn’t work for me; if it was supposed to help us think we were outdoors, wouldn’t earth brown be better?
- This new adaptation could have helped itself by making Michael Hume older than 62. When the doctor told Hume that his physical condition would just go downhill because he was past 60, the mostly white-haired audience snickered. I don’t think it was supposed to be a laugh line.
- The blocking had the actors marching too close to my row A seat, and I thought I was going to be accidentally hit on the back swing of Hume’s cane at one point.
- The dead seagull prop looked positively fuzzy and cuddly.
But, let’s not spend any more time craping about details. It was a fine production of a story that didn’t reach me.