As avid Chekhovians who have seen numerous productions of The Seagull, we were interested in viewing this variation on the play. Unlike other takeoffs of Chekhov’s plays, this is a unique play of its own. Taking the characters and the situation from Chekhov’s work, Aaron Posner has created an absorbing, contemporary play. In the original Seagull Constantine, known here as Conrad or Con, talks about new forms. In this version, we glimpse a new form as the characters engage the audience and discuss the play and their roles in it. Having enjoyed Posner’s The Chosen, we were impressed by what he has created in this play.
The production at Hubbard Hall with the audience on either side of the performers is outstanding. Most of the action takes place on the floor of the theatre with elevated areas at either end of the playing area. Chekhov’s image on the curtains for one of the playing areas is a fine reminder of the relationship between the original and this intriguing variation. Given the quality of the performances, three of whom are Bennington College students, credit must be given to Kirk Jackson, the director, who has created a world with these actors that holds the audience’s attention and belief in the actors needs that generates laughter at times, compassion at others. The opening scene where two young characters compete with each other as to who is most miserable is delightful and touching.
All of the actors, except for two, were new to us. All deserve to be singled out for their work. Evan McFarland as the tortured center of the play caught all the different aspects of Con convincingly. Since there are many addresses to the audience, at this performance, an audience member called out a suggestion which McFarland incorporated into the play with ease. It was one of those never to be repeated moments that is why so many cherish live theatre. Anabel Hoffman, who as Mash is in mourning for her life, was captivating and as her devoted, if scorned lover, and Con’s friend, Louis Celt was at times sensible and at others appropriately pathetic. Amrita Li Newton was Nina in all her various moods, giving us both Chekhov’s and Posner’s character in all her complexity. That these three actors are still students bodes well for their future in theatre. Jesse Pennington’s physicality as Trigorin added to his character expanding our understanding of him.
Having seen much of their work over the years, we were even more impressed by Kim Stauffer and David Snider. We have seen Kim play a variety of complex characters, but this showed fresh aspects of what she can do. She met the challenge of playing a different type of woman with skill and honesty. It is always a pleasure to see David Snider, the fine Executive and Artistic Director of Hubbard Hall, perform. He is an outstanding actor who captures the character of Sorn completely. Sorn provides a balance in the play between the conflicting generations exemplified by Emma and her son, Con. This is a production that should not be missed. Unfortunately, it is only running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from January 24 to February 2. Call 518-677-2495 or go on line at hubbardhall. org for tickets. It is an evening in theatre you will enjoy and long remember.