By Anton Chekhov; Directed by Lillian Meredith
Produced by The Instigators
Off Off Broadway, Classic
Runs through 6.18.17
Access Theater, 380 Broadway
by Ran Xia on 6.14.17
Kristen Vaughan and Taylor Petracek in The Seagull. Photo by Lisa Renee Jordan.
BOTTOM LINE: A sincere production of The Seagull that make full use of practical effects to ensure an transformative experience.
There’s a luxury of twilight glow at sundown from the picture windows at the Access Theater’s gallery space, making it a proper setting for The Instigators’ sincere rendition of The Seagull. The fading daylight drops shadows of wintry branches on Konstantin’s (Taylor Petracek) makeshift lakeside stage, where the story begins with Masha’s (Siena D’addario) ennui:” I’m dressed in black because I’m in mourning for my life.”
Kostya’s experimental theatre features his muse and love interest Nina (Jeanette Dilone) as a celestial being in the distant future, with Yakov (Kazuhiro Imafuku) providing sound effects. The whole thing was, of course, too high concept for the provincial audience who gathered more to support Konstantin than out of actual interest or a desire for understanding. However, the most traumatizing blow comes from Konstantin’s mother, the established actress Arkadina (Kristen Vaughan), who does not shy away from mocking the efforts of her son. The presence of Arkadina’s new lover, famous writer Trigorin (Fergus Scully), also presents a threat to both Konstantin’s ego and his persuit of Nina’s affection.
In desperation, Konstantin shoots down a seagull in order to profess his love to Nina, yet his overly symbolic approach doesn’t prove fruitful. Trigorin, on the other hand, wins over the innocent wannabe actress with his worldly charm and maturity. There’s also the matter of Masha, who turns her love for Konstantin into acceptance, and vows to rip love from its root from her heart.
The Seagull, one of Chekhov's most produced plays, has won over the hearts of generations with its tenderness and humanity. It’s Konstantin’s story, for the struggling young artist’s paths resonate with many. And it’s Nina’s story, for what she represents as the titular seagull, getting shot down by a man just because he had nothing better to do. From Tennessee Williams’ beautiful adaptation Trigorin’s Notebook, we know that it’s also Trigorin’s story, with his very own struggles and insecurities. And there’s the rest of the menagerie of fascinating individuals in Sorin’s estate. In the end, it’s a play for all those with insurmountable vulnerabilities. Nobody ends up getting what they want, but somehow they end up a little bit changed, and more understanding.
The Instigators' take on the production is honest and compassionate. The subtle direction of Lillian Meredith ensures that each character’s insecurity is fully exposed. It’s a solid production that stays true to Chekhov’s text, as well as showcasing the adept skills of the ensemble. The creativity of the team becomes most apparent in their making full use of practical effects—Chika Shimizu’s atmospheric set becomes immersive with limited materials—and the result is transformative. Deborah Unger’s Paulina is an absolute delight, in contrast to D’addario’s deliciously dark fatalist Masha. Vaughan’s Arkadina brings out the desperation and pride of an aging actress, and her manipulation of both Konstantin and Trigorin shines in some explosive moments.
(The Seagull plays at Access Theater, 380 Broadway, through June 18, 2017. The running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 7:30. Tickets are $7.50 - $30 and are available at eventbrite.com.)
The Seagull is by Anton Chekhov. Adapted by Fergus Scully and Taylor Petracek. Directed by Lillian Meredith. Set Design is by Chika Shimizu. Lighting Design is by Caitlin Rapoport. Stage Manager is Lindsey Hurley. Production Manager and House Manager is Dana Saffran. Sound Design and Original Music is by Sylvana Joyce.
The cast is Kristen Vaughan, Todd Licea, Taylor Petracek, Siena D'Addario, Emmanuel Elpenord, Jeanette Dilone, Fergus Scully, Deborah Unger, Peter Feliz, Roger Rathburn and Kazuhiro Imafuku.