The main events of the play occur one summer in the country by a lake. Irina, a successful actress in Moscow, and Trigorin, her writer lover, go out to the lake for a bit of relaxation. Irina's son Konstantin is also a writer. He talks about creating new forms of art, but all he wants is for his successful mother to love him and approve of his work, which of course she never does. His girlfriend Nina falls in love with Trigorin and follows him to Moscow to pursue her dreams of becoming a famous actress like Irina. It doesn't go well for her. Like Konstantine thoughtlessly shooting a seagull, Trigorin "comes along and destroys her life, because he has nothing better to do." Several other characters in the country town struggle to find love, an unhappy wife and a charming doctor, a young woman in love with someone in love with another. But despite all the tragedy, there is music and beauty.
Director Vladimir Rovinsky has created a dreamlike quality in the storytelling, in fact the play is bookended in a way that makes one think it was all a dream, or a distant but very real memory. Fluid movements are repeated, characters appear and disappear as if a vision, to haunting effect. A cellist (Bree Schmidt) provides not must musical accompaniment but a sonic backdrop for the story. Characters occasionally join in the music on guitar, banjo, or trumpet, sometimes singing rousing Russion folk songs.
Park Square Theatre's new adaptation of Great Expectations, Barbra Berlovitz creates another complex and fascinating woman as she effectively navigates Irina's mood swings from loving mother to harsh critic. As her son Konstantin, Nathan Christopher brings raw humanity to the young tortured artist. Shelby Richardson's Nina believably transforms from the bright and hopeful young actress to a woman damaged by life and men. Other highlights include Pearce Bunting as the charming rogue of a doctor, Terry Hempleman as the lovable uncle, Paul de Cordova as the callous Trigorin, Julianna Drajko as the victim of unrequited love, and Kimberly Richardson in a comic/tragic performance as an unhappy wife.
The Russian half of the Artistic Directing team (Vladimir Rovinsky) explains Chekhovian characters to the American half of the Artistic Directing team (Lisa Channer) thusly: "They are trying each day to kill the serf in themselves, trying to be a little bit freer, yet knowing this will never really happen. But still they try and in that futile trying, there is humor and pathos. All Russions understand this. It's not at all like resilient Amercican hope." With the odd and enchanting little dream that is this production of The Seagull, Theatre Novi Most has perfectly captured that feeling. The Seagull continues at the Southern Theater in rep with other ARTshare productions through March 27.
*Through the Southern Theater's unique ARTshare program, for $18 per month you can see as many shows as you like from a large collection of diverse theater and dance companies. See their website for more information.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.