Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Seagull

I've been quiet here this week, I know. It hasn't been intentional. Just busy, shockingly enough. And not, for the most part, with stuff that makes for interesting posts. Unless you really want to read about my doing dishes and going to the bank? No? Didn't think so. Which is fine by me, because I sure as hell don't want to write about it.

I went out to Brooklyn to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Seagull at the BAM Harvey Theater. I'd been there once before, to see Play Without Words, and I like the theater for it's peeling paint and feeling of semi-genteel disrepair. It feels very typically Brooklyn to me. Less enjoyable are the stools one sits on in the balcony. They do have footrests, and they're fine generally, but when you're watching a long play like The Seagull they quickly grow uncomfortable.

I almost never get out to Brooklyn so I really don't know my way around. I was feeling pretty good though, because the BAM website gives very specific directions (bless them) and I'd written those directions down. Then I miscalculated the number of stops it was to the Atlantic station, became absorbed in my book, and missed my stop. And in that part of Brooklyn there's a whole lot of space between stops on the D line. So it took me forever to get there, when it really shouldn't have taken long at all. Oh well.

The only version of The Seagull I'd seen before was "inspired by" the Chekhov play and retitled Drowning Crow. As I recall, it followed the plot pretty precisely, but was set in South Carolina's Gullah Islands and explored the African-American experience. Stripped of the humor and pathos, complexity and nuance, beauty and poetry, that Chekhov imbued the play with, as it was, the story itself isn't necessarily something anyone would want to watch. In short, it was awful.

So I was excited to see the RSC do it. I know they're not slavish followers of the text, afraid to put their own interpretation on things--the only previous time I saw them, they were doing a very interesting version of Hamlet--but I figured they also wouldn't be trying to reinvent the wheel. And, while this production of The Seagull is played for laughs a little too often to match the platonic ideal of the play that I have in my head, it was certainly a great deal closer.

The acting was excellent, as could be expected. I also kept getting distracted by the costumes. Not that they were anything special, just that I really like the clothing from that era. It was also interesting to see the different audience reactions to the play. On one side of me I had a guy who was so engrossed that he was watching with his mouth hanging open, and spent the intermission talking animatedly about the play to the woman who was there with him. On the other side I had three people who left during the intermission. I was tired and uncomfortable which made me less attentive than I might otherwise have been, but over all I'm glad I went.

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