MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Seagull

By Anton ChekhovThe Seagull at goodman theatre

Adapted and directed by Robert Falls

Based George Calderon

At the Goodman Theatre

Actor-centric remount of Chekhov’s 1896 classic, The Seagull is a worthy experience.

In a change of style, director Robert Falls has opted for a minimalist actor centered production of The Seagull based on two years of meticulous research. His cast, a group of “A” list Equity actors, have  had a long, discovery oriented Eastern European repertory company environment in which to absorb the nuances of their characters with a focus on the methods of Konstantin Stanislavsky. Add the long raked ramp styled open set (designed by Todd Rosenthal) and you have an intense play that easily reaches audiences and holds them throughout the nearly 3 hour play.

The Seagull at goodman theatre

The Seagull is Chekhov’s 1896  play that has a distinct mood of melancholic tone that arises from the haplessness of the characters that apparently  are destined either to flounder in self-pity or indifference or consume themselves in thwarted passion.  Filled with characters who desire love relationships that may never happen, the under current of desperation permeates.

The Seagull at goodman theatre

We meet the famed actress Arkadina (Mary Beth Fisher), who is a self-absorbed aging diva actress who returns to her sickly brother Sorin’s (Francis Guinan) rural Russian estate. Her playwright son, Konstantin (Stephan Louis Grush) desperate for his mother’s  (Arkadina) love and professional recognition as an artist/playwright mounts a play to impress his mother. Arkadina ridicules Konstantin’s play. Acting, writing and theatre conventions are discussed.

The Seagull at goodman theatre

Konstantin loves Nina (Heather Wood) who loves Trigorin (Cliff Chamberlian) as the play is filled with tragacomic romantic triangles, deception and desperate vying for unrequited love.  Most of the family are struggling to find themselves.

The Seagull at goodman theatre

Sorin laments not living his life during his 62 years; Dr. Dorin has ‘lived life’ but wants more; Masha (Kelly O’Sullivan) is mourning for her life and is living a loveless marriage to Medvedenko (Demetrios Troy) who pines for more money.

The Seagull at goodman theatre

Director Falls allows his characters to fully developed their characters, especially with the little details making The Seagull an ensemble work filled with depth.  Several players were particularly effective: Francis Guinan plays the sickly Sorin with a stunning power; Scott Jaeck has Dorin combining wit with compassion while Heather Woods has Nina’s self-destruction nature as a sorry waste. Cliff Chamberlain demonstrates Trigorin’s true love- his writing while Mary Beth Fisher’s Arkadina desperately tries to keep Trigorin and her glamor.  This cast plays the indirect action and subtext brilliantly.

Having the entire cast sitting on a bench on the stage even when they are not in a scene worked to create the tightness of the production. They subtly reacted  to the action of the story.

The Seagull is a major theatrical experience not to be missed. It is filled with a cast so absorbed into their characters that the play unfolds with  powerful realism.  Chehkov and Stanislavsky would appreciate this production, I know I did.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At the Goodman Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, Call 312-443-3800,, tickets $10 – $45, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 7;30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 55 minutes with intermission.

2 thoughts on “The Seagull

  • michael rosenberg

    As I looked around the theater last night at the audience of The Seagull, I was struck by the number of viewers who were either sound asleep, or at least, nodding off. Did your reviewer see the same tedious, dated play that we all saw?

  • No one sleep at the performance I saw. Chekhov plays require attention but once you’re hooked, they are engaging.

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