By Tulis McCall
Hmmmmm — where to start. Honestly, I don’t know. Well, I can tell you this much, I was looking forward to seeing this production after I heard an interview on All Of It with Parker Posey, (Irene) and Ato Essandoh (William).
Dang it sounded like they were having So-Much-Fun!
And maybe they were, but if so, that happiness was not contagious. Not that the actors were not doing their darnedest to light the script up and get it to move into the three dimensional world. They were doing their best, but the script by Thomas Bradshaw and the direction by Scott Elliott made it all rough going,
It’s not that I feel precious about original scripts. I recently saw “A Doll’s House” and thought Amy Herzog did a masterful job of doing just enough to mold the script into a new incarnation. Here, Mr. Bradshaw goes so far afield that any connection to the original “The Sea Gull” is nearly obliterated. I suppose the most obvious is subject matter of the play within a play that Nina (Alyse Shannon) performs in the first scene. In the original script is is sort of a stream of consciousness about the essence of connected life. Not here. In this version the subject is masturbation: Nina’s and everyone else who wishes to fess up. (Just the men do.) After that, the horse is out of the gate and loping off to the upper forty.
There are brushes with the original story – unrequited love that will not give up no matter the delicate odds; mother-son fractured, needy relationships; infidelity for the heck of it on the one side and devastating on the other. Nobody is happy in this enclave. Which begs the question: why do they stick around? Especially as the play is set in the present when going back to New York would only take an hour or so and require no harnessed horses.
As I said the actors do the best they can. Even participating in a puzzling warmup that would have lived better backstage. In particular Hari Nef as Sasha has an inner life that you can almost hear ticking away. When she is onstage, there is no one else you want to watch.
The play is long, well over two hours, and slow and slightly maddening. Somewhere in the beginning of the last scene I leaned over to my guest and whispered that we might have to take it upon ourselves to leave because it seemed as though these actors, if given the opportunity, would simply go on and on and on and this play would never-ever end.
It did, but not without actual wear and tear inflicted on the innocent – namely us, the audience.
And not for nothing, but the set by Derek McLane is not user friendly in the least. The floorboards squeak and the exit steps cut into the corners downstage are treacherous. Actors are forced to hold hands as the exit off the stage and then climb the steps to get out of the theatre.
All in all, an inexplicable and frustrating experience on every level.
“The Seagull/Woodstock, NY” by Thomas Bradshaw Adapted from Chekhov; Directed by Scott Elliott
With David Cale, Ato Essandoh, Patrick Foley, Hari Nef, Daniel Oreskes, Parker Posey, Bill Sage, Aleyse Shannon, Amy Stiller, Nat Wolff
This production includes Scenic Design by Derek McLane, Costume Design by Qween Jean, Lighting Design by Cha See, Sound Design by Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen.
Now through April 9 at Signature Theatre, Pershing Square. TICKETS