A talented cast of acclaimed Chicago actors including two artists named by Chicago magazine as the best actors for 2010–Mary Beth Fisher and Francis Guinan–headline Robert Falls revival of The Seagull at the Goodman Theatre. The tragic, yet farcical Anton Chekhov classic relies on an ensemble of 14 and employs a minimalistic approach both in staging and costuming.
I, for one, applaud the bare bones staging by Artistic Director Robert Falls. Falls along with Set Designer Todd Rosenthal and Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic provide a clean lens to view the internal struggles and psychic turmoils that are inherent to the Chekhov classic.
This, of course, is no accident. Two years of meticulous research and preparation went into
this untethered staging of The Seagull–marking a departure from Falls’ recent large-scale works. Falls focused on the method of Konstantin Stanislavsky, the man often credited as “the father of modern theater.” Interestingly, this was the same method employed back in the 1897 staging of the The Seagull at the Moscow Art Theatre where it found success after its dismal opening disaster a year earlier in St. Petersburg.
The play begins as workmen cart a heavy stone centerstage to serve as the platform for the evenings’ entertainment. Famed actress Arkadina (Mary Beth Fisher) and her much younger lover Trigorin (Cliff Chamberlain) have come to visit her family’s estate. Arkadina’s tormented 25-year-old-son Konstantin (Stephen Louis Grush) hopes to win his mother’s approval with a play he has written that his love interest Nina (Heather Wood) will perform.
Chekhov’s, The Seagull, explores the relationships between the characters, uncovering the raw emotions, passions, and struggles that each character undergoes. Falls’ “Seagull” is able to do this with both a sense of humor and believably. In the showpiece role of Arkadina, the terminally selfish actress/mother, Mary Beth Fisher displays perfect timing and just the right balance of narcissism and self doubt. Masha (Kelly O’Sullivan), the chronically depressed daughter of the estate manager, makes her Goodman debut, with an outstanding performance. Cliff Chamberlain’s Trigorin, the famous writer and ladies’ man, slips in and out of relationships with the same nonchalance as he would use to cast his fishing rod. Steppenwolf’s Francis Guinan’s sensitive portrayal puts Sorin in his rightful position at the center of the action. Stephen Louis Grush is the right man for the job of inflamed artistic rebel son Konstantin, bringing a sensitivity and soulfulness to the role. Nina played by Heather Wood exhibits an engaging innocence mixed with determination as she yearns for fame and immortality but is ravaged by time and failed expectations.
The Seagull continues through Nov. 14 at the Goodman’s OwenTheatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; Running time: 3 hours; Tickets: $20-$45 at 312-443-3800.
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