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'Seagull' takes flight at BGSU PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 10:13
Arkadina, played by Michelle Mensah, seduces Trigorin, played by Dylan Stretchberry, during the BGSU production "The Seagull" in the Eva Marie Saint Theatre. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Chekhov's "The Seagull" drops the audience into a social muddle of tangled affections and brooding neurosis.
Staged in the newly dedicated Eva Marie Saint Theatre, the effect is all the more gripping. Those in the front rows can almost stretch their legs into the Russian lakeside manor where Chekhov sets his story of how dreams of the artistic life lead to despair, even for those who achieve them.
The Seagull," directed by Jonathan Chambers, opens tonight at 8 on the Bowling Green State University campus.
These are not happy people, though they are comic in their way. The playwright described "The Seagull" as a comedy, but it is only so in the bleakest way, or maybe calling it such is just another joke.
The play opens right before a play opens. One of those dreamers, Konstantin (Brett Mutter), a would-be writer, is getting ready to stage his first production for friends and family on his uncle's estate. From the beginning the disdain shown to him by the servant Yakov (JD Caudill) shows his low status in the world.
Society's indifference stings Konstantin, who alternates between self-loathing and arrogance. He is the son of a famous actress Arkadina (Michelle Mensah) who is neglectful, when not outright hostile toward her son.
His experimental play does nothing to raise him in her estimation. Even before it begins she stands up and delivers a monologue.
Arkadina must always be the center of attention, and Mensah gives full range to this diva, almost stealing the show.
That's impossible though with the strong ensemble cast.
Each actor is called upon to bring to life characters wrestling with their own contradictions and internal turmoil ... well, maybe not the manager of the manor Shamrayev played by Casey Toney as brimming with thoughtless bluster, flattening anyone in his way.
Dorn, played by Lance Mekeel (left), walks away from Polina, played by Hannah Berry (right), after she asks him to run away with her during the BGSU production of "The Seagull."
No wonder his wife Polina (Hannah Berry) longs to be with the doctor Dorn (Lance Mekeel) whose interest in women extends beyond obstetrics.
Yet Dorn provides Konstantin with his only sliver of encouragement. "You are a talented person, You must continue."
Still Konstantin is faced with his mother's lover the popular writer Trigorin (Dylan Stretchbery) who he sees as something of a literary rival as well as a rival for the heart of the girl he loves Nina (Kendra Beitzel). She longs to be an actress and peppers Trigorin with leading questions about the glories of the creative life.
He dismisses her romantic notions. He is tormented by his work. He's always driven back to his table to write, yet always knows he'll be overshadowed by Tolstoy and Turgenev. He continually takes notes even during conversation, even as he seduces Nina.
Beitzel's Nina gets to express the core irony at the heart of "The Seagull." In the first act she gives the lines of Konstantin's play a histrionic reading, true to an actress with more aspiration than ability. But in Act IV she reprises those lines that were so pretentious at first lovingly, exposing their truth.
While Nina longs for Trigorin, Masha (Hope Quinn) longs for Konstantin. They are well matched in temperament. Asked by the buffoonish teacher Medvedenko why she always wears black, she tells him: "I'm mourning my life."
Medvedenko loves her and pursues her. Marrying her is his dream that will be realized with much disillusionment.
Sorin (Corey DiNardo), the elderly and ailing owner of the manor, has his own regrets. He wished he'd been even a second-rate writer and wished to be married. Instead he remained a bachelor and worked as a civil servant for 28 years. Yet Sorin seems to have achieved a measure of equanimity as he approaches death. He loves his nephew in a way his mother never has, yet is just as helpless to help him as anyone else.
All this, I know, sounds mighty convoluted. Yet in the master's hands the action becomes almost frothy as if Chekhov cannot quite take these folks as seriously as they take themselves.
Chambers direction brings this out. Without such a sure touch this would not be a gathering the audience would not want to spend two and a half hours with. With that touch, this is a gathering theater lovers will not want to miss.

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