Review "The Seagull": Soars on Falls' Wings!

Goodman Theatre presents


The Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and directed by Robert Falls
Tuesdays , Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays @ 7:30pm
Fridays, Saturdays @ 8pm
Saturdays, Sundays @ 2pm
Thru November 21st
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Three hours includes a fifteen minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

'Unrequited love only happens in bad novels.'  Not so!  Sometimes it happens on stage where the characters can't get enough love despite the adoration of the audience.  Goodman Theatre presents Anton Chekhov's classic THE SEAGULL.  Konstantin, a struggling writer wants love from two actresses.  Arkadina, his mom, is an established celebrity.  Nina, his would-be girlfriend, longs to be on the stage.  The actresses are both in love with Trigorin, a successful writer.  Konstantin IS loved but by the housekeeper's daughter, much to his and the village school teacher's chagrin.  The housekeeper loves the doctor, who charms all the ladies including the actresses.  It's a vicious cycle of love!  Adapted and directed by Robert Falls, THE SEAGULL soars to dramatic heights while gliding through comedic absurdity.  It's Falls' greatest un-love story ever told! 

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Falls masterfully reconstructs the 19th century play for contemporary audience with a talented cast and well-paced movement.  For most of the play, the entire cast watch from bench sidelines until it's their turn to play.  This is especially effective for a surreal scene of a play within a play.  Some of the actors heighten the absurdity of their characters with hilarious results.  These over-the-top performances are lively boosts that continually energize the marathon of material.  In the lead, Mary Beth Fisher (Arkadina) is diva-licious as a self-absorbed actress.  Continually stealing the spotlight, Fisher's character craves attention from everyone but her son.  Competing with Fisher for the bigger laughs, Kelly O'Sullivan (Masha) is teenage gothic terrific 'in mourning for a life.'  The appearance of vodka or her crush transforms O'Sullivan from miserable doomsdayer to desperate idealist.   Heather Wood (Nina) is the shiny-faced beauty that charms the men and annoys the women.  Her removal from innocence is revealed with haunting resignation.   With heart-wrenching intensity, Stephen Louis Grush (Konstantin) wants to be mama and Nina's boy.  His reaction to rejection shocks with dramatic force.  Scott Jaeck (Dorn) mutters 'people are exhausting' as the designated touchstone for help.  Jaeck delightfully reacts to each situation with reluctant kindness except to his discarded love, Polina.  Janet Ulrich Brooks (Polina) is hysterical over a flower exchange.  The epic tantrum elicits spontaneous applause from the audience.  The entire gifted ensemble fuse as a dysfunctional household tainted but still obsessed with the pursuit of love.   

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The beautifully simplistic set, designed by Todd Rosenthal, is a stark pier jetting out slanted from stage left.  The plank is surrounded by a lake of people on either side.  With the intimacy of the boardwalk placement and the bright lights, it's not initially apparent if the show has begun.  The lights don't provide a visual clue to the end of the scenes either confusing applause cues.  But the biggest distraction was the use of the harsh houselights made everyone on the other side of the pier very visible and not in a flattering way. The lighting was the only dim moment in this otherwise vibrant and dazzling show.   You will Falls in love with THE SEAGULL!   

An Anton Chekhov groupie, James describes the show with 'Must See Melodrama.'

SIDENOTE to Sara Ruhl:  When you are in town this spring, chat with Robert Falls about adapting a classic.

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