note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
Chekhov always insisted he wrote comedy --- and director Jason Myatt takes him at his word. The Hovey players' vivid production of "The Seagull" places funnyman Jason Yaitanes center-stage where he dazzles as the melancholy Konstantine.
His hangdog Konstantine bounds about the Russian countryside setting "the stage" for his play of emotions, a work he is convinced will change the course of Russian drama. Professor Freud might suggest that his revolution is not aimed so much at the theater as it is at the acclaimed actress who happens to be his mother.
Most Konstantins in my experience favor petulance over humor, but Yaitanes plays against his mother's diagnosis of a "morbid personality". Elyse Cronyn as the actress Arkadina corners the market on petulance all by herself. The fact that we are delighted whenever her son appears makes his sad fate all the more crushing.
Myatt gets laughs, as well, from Stephen Turner as the family's testy estate manager, from Jim Muzzi as Masha's schlemiel of a beau, from Peter Brown as the sly, debonair doctor "of a certain age", and from Ronni Marshak as Masha's fussy, libidinous mother. Erica Klempner is charming as the gloomy Masha and Jason Katz is crotchety fun as the ancient grandfather.
But it is Kim Anton who radiates warmth and goodness as the innocent, doomed Nina. She's funny without being foolish, sincere without being cloying, and her tragedy rivals Konstantin's. It's a tour de force for Anton.
Curiously, Wayne Vargas, as the poet no one can resist, assiduously underplays Trigorin --- to the point that I couldn't see why Nina had fallen for him. It felt like there was a scene missing --- so we could see their infatuation. Everyone talked about how charismatic he was, but Vargas seemed to be working hard trying not to be. (You can't say the company didn't try another approach; I just didn't get it.)
But I did get the gorgeous scenery --- designed by wizard John MacKenzie and executed by Hovey's own Georgia O'Keefe, Michele Boll. Russia looked as inviting as the Riviera.
For the most part, Hovey captured the "universal spirit" of Chekhov.