The Millbrook Independent
by: Antonia Shoumatoff
Posted November 20, 2014
Click here for the review.
Chekhov gave up on the theater and retired to the country in the late 1880s. He was disgusted with the banality of popular culture. He used the untranslatable Russian word “Poshlost” to describe the phenomenon of crass and vulgar taste that pervaded the Russian bourgeoisie (and, for that matter, the French, after whom Russians patterned themselves), who preferred drawing-room farces to psychologically insightful drama.
After Chekhov turned his back on the theater, he turned out his three best plays: The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya and The Seagull.
The Axial Theater Company, directed by Howard Meyer and working out of St. John's Episcopal Church in Pleasantville, has mounted a production of The Seagull.
“For so long I have been going on about new forms, it’s all about writing without any form at all … just freely and from the soul!” exclaims Konstantin Treplev, the troubled playwright who melodramatically attempts suicide after his mother, a famous actress, rejects his efforts as being obscure and inaccessible.
Treplev is portrayed with the sensitivity of a poet by Francesco Campari, an Italian actor who has worked with Peter Brook. Nina, the ingénue “seagull” is played by Rachel Krause, a SUNY graduate,. She is riveting as the aspiring actress who transforms into a haggard woman destroyed by love. Rachel Ann Jones succeeds in her coquettish attempts to act younger than her age as Arkadina belying the vulnerability of an actress who has seen her day.
The tenuous emotional backbone of each character fluctuates from inspiration to despair in a house of cards of interpersonal dynamics that finally leads to collapse. Artists, actors and writers, lost in their work, given over to their fragile self-images, become lost in the idea of love and infatuation, only to find futility.
The real action of the play is about the posturing and positioning of each character against the others, with friends and family obsessed with their craft and the esteem of their peers and the fame it brings, or doesn't. The drive to be known, to be seen and appreciated, is as powerful today as it was when the play was written. The relevance of this script, and its delivery in this performance, is striking: career versus relationship, commercial acclaim versus artistic integrity, regret for things left undone in old age, hopeless love—all universal themes.
The Seagull plays Friday, November 21, through Sunday, November 23, at 8 Sunnyside Avenue, Pleasantville, New York.