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LA Theater Review

The Seagull

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If we'd never tried to move culture along, we'd still be living in caves. All trying is worth the effort. But not all trying leads to the optimal results. This production of Chekhov's classic is certainly high on concept, but its ultimate effect packs less of an emotional punch than at least this American audience member could hope for.

Firstly, complimentary alcohol is served preshow and during intermission. At the performance reviewed, almost all of the audience members partook, some indulging in two-fisted imbibing. If acting is communicating, and if we wouldn't want our actors drunken, why would the producers want their audiences not fully present? Perhaps the answer was in the raucous laughter that greeted the actors' every wink and nod and modern delivery despite the period dress.

Which brings us to the second issue here. Marjo-Riikka Makela directs this commedia-infused version. The verbal and facial mugging brooks no opportunity for the audience to emotionally respond to the play. It's interesting occasionally, as is the entourage that clusters around Arkadina and moves as one seven-headed person, but this more than two hours of concept is far too much to take.

The style turns Masha's timeless sadness into present-day bitchiness, Kostya's misery into an intellectually interesting nightmare, and his and Nina's mutual attraction into onstage (simulated) intercourse. It is said Chekhov wanted us to laugh. But should the laughter come from recognition of ourselves or from recognition of hammy acting?

Oh, yes. During the performance, drinking glasses slipped out of the audience's swiftly loosening hands. Nazdrovia.

Presented by [via]Corpora Performance R&D House and Chekhov Studio Intl at Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Aug. 21-Sept. 26. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (800 838-3006. www.viacorpora.com.


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