DramaNew YorkReview

The Seagull – Access Theater, New York

Writer: Anton Chekhov
Adaptors: Fergus Scully & Taylor Petracek
Director: Lillian Meredith
Original Music: Sylvana Joyce
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler

Anton Chekhov’s plays plumb the heights and depths of the human condition in ways to which most playwrights can only aspire. Though the stories they tell exist in a specific time and place, the characters, and their struggles and triumphs, are timeless. Unfortunately, that means that they are often performed (and have always been), by troupes that don’t do them justice. The Instigators’ production of The Seagull is one such example.

Billed as an immersive production, but without a hint of immersion, this production needs stronger direction, and nuance where there is currently none. Though there are moments and performances worth praising, the ensemble is, for the most part, emotionally monotonous at a level of excessive intensity. This makes for a long two-plus hours spent with characters for whom one ultimately has little sympathy. 

Staging and scenic choices, ostensibly made out of the desire to claim this production as “immersive theatre,” the latest trend and catchphrase in modern theatre, are instead awkward and anachronistic. An Altoids™ tin as a snuff box? A backstage area walled off by thin wood flats through which close enough audience members can hear offstage actors and front-of-house staff speaking during the play? Why isn’t the stage set for Act Two during intermission, and instead the actors (their characters?) are moving scenery after the house lights have gone down? These are solvable problems that need not have made it to the final production.

According to the company’s press, this production is “a precursor to a new indie film version of the play set to begin shooting in mid-June with the same actors, incorporating elements of the live staging.” Hopefully, they iron out the kinks before they invest in a cinematic interpretation of their stage work.

Runs until 18 June 2017 | Image: Lisa Renee Jordan

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The American team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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