Who doesn’t like a good love triangle right? Anton Chekhov’s, The Seagull, is a masterpiece in thrilling melodramas about the painful pangs unrequited love Mississippi Mud presents this iconic work and sets it in Los Angeles in 1969. The result is an interesting adaptation that shows that matters of the heart haven’t changed from old times to modern day. Chekhov is a master of language and interpretations of his work are always dangerous. It must be done delicately or productions risk losing the beautiful poetry of his plays.
The play mainly follows Arkadina, a famous, narcissistic actress and her son Konstantin. Konstantin has a severe, love-hate relationship with his well-known mother. When Arkadina brings her younger, acclaimed author, Trigorin home as her lover sparks fly. Konstantin implores the help of his naive girlfriend Nina to perform his newest play, which he hopes will gain his mother’s respect. However, when Nina meets Trigorin she becomes infatuated with him and he with her. There are other love triangles to follow, but this one is central to the story. Eventually, these story lines come to a head and the climax is profound.
The cast does a good job telling the story for the most part. Maureen Mooney is fantastic as Arkadina. She is exasperating in all the right ways. Her high energy is great and serves the play well. Patricia Perales is stellar as the inconsolable Masha. Her love for Konstantin is palpable and thus, his refusal of her hurts us as much as it hurts her. We can walk a mile in her shoes and are glad to do it. Michael Arena does well with Konstantin. He is fiery and passionate, making him the loveable tortured soul that we all respond so well to Andy McCutcheon is great as the wayward Trigorin. His charm is undeniable and we see why Nina falls for him.
There were, however, some glitches with this production. Jen Danby is undoubtedly a fine actor. Yet, she comes across as strong and as someone who has been through a lot. As it is now, Nina is still written as a young, innocent girl who gets corrupted by Trigorin. It is hard to believe that Danby lives with her parents and is as untouched as the writing says she is. Instead , she comes across as a battle-driven survivor. This creates some disconnect for the audience. Since, they have adapted the text, I wish there was some changes to the way Nina is talked about. Also, her and Arena’s climatic scene seemed too one dimensional. I hope that Danby and Arena explore the many layers of their relationship. There is so much good writing there that needs to be used by the actors to color their performance.
I applaud Mississippi Muds production for its ingenuity. Austin Pendleton directs this emotional, roller-coaster of a play with great skill. His set is simple and he guides his actors in creating the world for us with very simple items. I love this, stripped-down, style of theater. The actors have no where to hide and are forced to deliver. In this case, they mostly fit the bill and give us an enjoyable re-telling of this classic play.
The Seagull69 plays now through February 17, 2014 at The Alexander Technique Center for Performance and Development, 330 West 38th St., Suite 805, 8th Floor, New York (between 8th and 9th Avenues).http://seagull69.brownpapertickets.com