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Robert Falls’ fresh take on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull is a triumphant experiment in reinvigorating theater’s “primal” connections, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. The Goodman’s artistic director has departed from his usual extravagant style to stage a bare-bones production featuring a cast re-energized by immersion in the collaboration-promoting theories of Constantin Stanislavski, the father of Method acting. These inspired performers seem to “mine every textual nugget” in the story while re-creating Chekhov’s collection of discontented artists from the ground up. Some of the characters are allowed to drift on and off stage without apparent purpose, but other than that, the result of the experiment is a Seagull that delivers a welcome sense of “living, breathing spontaneity.”
This unconstrained feel befits Chekhov well, as he “possessed something of a cinéma vérité mentality” long before its time, said Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times. The cast makes the playwright’s dialogue— or, rather, Falls’ “exceptionally deft gloss” on the original 1909 English translation—feel never less than completely natural. Mary Beth Fisher is “all narcissism and wiliness” as Arkadina, the manipulative actress bent on keeping herself in the spotlight. As her playwright son Konstantin, Stephen Louis Grush “puts an impressively real spin” on his character’s Hamlet-like torment and moodiness. The characters’ doomed quests for fulfillment are captured so vividly that a viewer can’t help thinking that, somewhere, Chekhov might be “winking with approval.”
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