Walter Kerr Theatre, New York
This magnificent new interpretation of The Seagull “is the finest and most fully involving production of Chekhov I have ever known,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. A challenging work, The Seagull has sent many a theatrical artist “stumbling into confusion.” The assemblage of thwarted souls who find themselves at the country estate of Sorin are a peculiar bunch who seldom say what they mean. But their individual quests for attention are constantly driven by the need to say something. Ian Rickson strikes a balance onstage among the powerful personalities while communicating the nuance of Chekhov’s play, aided by “a superlative ensemble” led by Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard.
This Seagull premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London, but has lost nothing in its flight to New York, said Linda Winer in Newsday. Scott Thomas is glorious in her long overdue Broadway debut. Her Olivier-winning portrayal of the fading actress Arkadina is the axis on which this production turns. The actress captures Arkadina as both a narcissistic master manipulator and “the sort of star who, long ago, clearly lost interest in distinguishing between performance and reality.” As Arkadina’s son, the would-be writer Konstantin, Mackenzie Crook is petulant and constantly in need of approval. Up-and-coming Zoe Kazan is splendid as Masha, a servant’s daughter whose wisdom far exceeds her station, and Sarsgaard is winning as Arkadina’s dashing yet dull boy-toy Trigorin.
“There has been an absolute glut of Seagull revivals recently in New York,” said Frank Scheck in The Hollywood Reporter. Two previous takes this year alone—one featuring a Russian-American cast and the other starring Dianne Wiest and Alan Cumming—were disappointing. The Royal Court’s version is the one we’ve been waiting for. The unsung hero here may be Christopher Hampton, a playwright whose entirely new translation of the Chekhov masterpiece is “beautifully modulated” and strikingly contemporary. Together with Rickson’s flawless direction and strong performances across the board, “this rendition is special enough to make the play’s return a welcome event” regardless of its timing.