Being a theatre major in college, I have read and seen many productions of Anton Chekhov’s iconic play Seagull. I must say, not matter how hard I tried I never fully understood it, until I saw Translator/Adaptor/Director Yasen Peyankov’s adaptation of play performed by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company Ensemble.
Yasen’s version is lighter and direct but has not diminished Chekhov’s words or intent. Yasen says that his version is rooted in contemporary English so American audiences may experience the play as they would a contemporary one without moving away from the Russian feel, spirit, and history. I am so happy for that because I left the theater really in love with the story, I thought I understood but didn’t.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ensemble Member Namir Smallwood who plays Konstantin Treplev who dreams of being a successful playwright and is hopelessly in love with Nina Zarechnaya. I asked him what the story of Seagull was from his personal point of view. He told me, “Seagulls, it’s about one’s relationship with art and love, unrequited love, getting older, and not being as popular as you once were. New forms of art versus old forms of art. It’s a lot in there and it’s really about the Russian Revolution. We kind of went through things with art in America as well, you can go to the Black Arts Movement, we wanted to tell stories about Black folks here in this country and they did the same thing in Russia. So, it’s really about those kinds of things and it’s really accessible and palpable to what we as human beings deal with on a daily basis.”
In addition to Namir, Seagull features co-founder Jeff Perry, and fellow ensemble members Sandra Marquez, Caroline Neff, Karen Rodriquez, Eric Simonson, alongside Keith Kupferer, Elijah Newman, Jon Hudson Odom, Joey Slotnick, and Lusia, with Scott Jaeck stepping in for Jeff Perry from May 24th – June 5th.
I must mention the set design by Associate Scenic Design Sotirios Livaditis. The stage is in the round with a beautiful floor that surprises the audience during parts of the play. The sculpture that hangs over center stage is beautiful.
One of the reasons I love productions at presented by Steppenwolf’s Ensemble is just that. There are many television, film, and Broadway stars that are a part of the Ensemble, but everyone on that stage is equal to bring a fantastic experience to the audience just due to the play being performed.
I give Seagull 3 ½ winks of the EYE out of 4.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!