Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Seagull"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The Seagull"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at URI Theatre is "The Seagull" by Anton Chekov. One summer in late 19th century a family and their companions convene at an estate in the Russian countryside. A new play is performed and lives are changed forever as we witness the evolving dynamics of love, young, mature, married, illicit and unrequited. Anton Chekov's unique characters, including actors, writers, a teacher, a doctor, and wannabes take us on a journey filled with poignancy of aspiration, success and failure in Chekov's tragicomic masterpiece. Initially, the play was less than successful on its first public excursion, but two years later in 1898 it flourished in the hands of actor/director Constantine Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre. Stanislavsky understood Chekhov's new form of writing, the need to enliven the stage with character behavior, inner life, and subtext. Stanislavsky's system of acting affected American theater's primary acting teachers; Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, Bobby Lewis and Uta Hagen and their many students. At the crux of "The Sea Gull" is an unfulfilled mother-son love, a conflict between traditional and new forms of theater, the obsessiveness, even narcissism of the artist at any price, and the flight of ambition to capture fame often leaving love in its wake. "The Sea Gull" mirrors human beings as they truly are, loveable and laughable. He examines the inner turmoil facing each of these characters in the show. Treplev's despair is shown when he kills a seagull and it foreshadows a greater tragedy near the end of the play. Director Bryna Wortman casts these roles beautifully and obtains terrific work from her student cast.

She blocks them wonderfully and is aided in her task by scenic designer Cheryl deWardener who creates an exterior set for the first two scenes and two different interior sets for the last two scenes. A word of praise to costume designer Marilyn Salvatore for her gorgeous 19th century costumes especially Irina and Nina's gowns. Bryna also supplies a dream of the future scene between Nina and Konstantin to show what might have been between them in the theatre pavalion, creating a satisfying ending for this tragic show.The tortured young writer, Konstantin is played by the multitalented, Andrew Burnap. This young man is adept at comedy as proven by his role last year as Frank in "Rocky Horror Show" as he is in a dramatic role. One of the most moving and poignant moments in this show is a scene between his mother and him. After he wounds himself with a gunshot to his head, he confesses that he feels closer to his mother at that moment than he ever did as a small child. Andrew's argument scene with her and his final tragic scene with Nina are performed in a heartbreaking manner.He breaks down in tears during his final scene while tearing up his magazine articles. Portraying his strong willed, temperamental, manipulative actress mother, Arkadina is Julia Bailey. She is a statuesque brunette and is a dominating presence in this show by controlling not only her son but all those around her including her wayward lover. Julia's other powerful scene is when she begs Trigorin not to leave her alone, this scene crackles with powerful energy from both her and Miles. She falls to her knees on the chaise while tugging on his leg, imploring him to stay with her. The two timing cad of a writer, Trigorin is played by Miles Boucher. He cheats on his mistress with Nina, a young admirer who he impregnates and leaves. Miles plays this self absorbed cad with a charm that hides his true nature as he continually says he would rather fish than write. At the end of the first act, Miles delivers a powerful monologue on being obsessed with writing. At the start of the second act the audience discovers Trigorin's infatuation with Nina. Nora Eschenheimer plays Nina who starts out as the young, naive girl who loves the idea of being with famous people but soon realizes fame isn't all it appears to be. Nora is very dynamic in this role from start to finish. Nina has a breakdown after the death of her baby and her acting career suffers from it. Nora's final scene with Andrew is heartbreaking. It brings the show to its inevitable tragic conclusion by Nina's final rejection of Konstantin. Bryna's dream scene after this gives the show an uplifting appeal. Her white gowns in the first scenes show her naivete while the navy blue one in the last scene shows how her life took a tragic turn.

Joshua Christensen is wonderful as Konstantin's sickly uncle, Sorin. He captures the warmth of the character and displays his kindliness to others. Joshua puts a quaver in his voice as he plays this 60 year old man. He wins many laughs in this role. Erick Betancourt is comic as Shamrayev, his estate manager. His comic relief helps to brighten up the heavy drama around him. Erick imitates a bass singer in the first scene and in the second one, Shamrayev is obsessed with protecting the horses and refuses to let people use them. His long suffering wife, Polina who is secretly in love with the doctor is well played by Kira Hawkridge. She delivers her lines wonderfully and walks stooped over as this elderly woman. Their unhappy, snuff sniffing daughter, Masha is played by Shannon Hartman. Masha is always dressed in black because she is upset that Konstantin doesn't reciprocate her love. Masha settles for marriage to Medvedenko, the school teacher and treats him cruelly. Shannon has a drunken scene at the start of Act 2 with Miles that is hilarious as they swill vodka down, one after another as she spills it on herself. Birk Wozniak plays the henpecked husband of Masha, evoking the sympathy of the audience by how awfully he is treated by everyone throughout the show. The inept Doctor Dorn is played by Joshua Andrews. The doctor has an eye for the ladies but doesn't know how to treat Sorin's illness properly. This was Chekov's commentary on his low regard for doctors and teachers. So for look back at a classic play, be sure to catch "The Seagull" at URI Theatre to enjoy the acting talents of these talented students. Their acting prowess shines throughout this show.

"The Seagull" (1 - 11 December)
URI THEATRE
@ Robert Will Theatre, Fine Arts Center University of Rhode Island, Upper College Road, KINGSTON RI
1(401)874-5843

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