Seagull (Thinking of you)

nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
January 17, 2013

Andreea Mincic’s set for Seagull (Thinking of you) is a welcoming sight in the New Ohio Theatre: Mauve walls, white curtains billowing, and pale wooden pedestals that might stand in for tree stumps.  It’s a dreamy setting, apt for a dreamlike deconstruction of Anton Chekhov.

And a dream is what the play seems to be, a mash-up of Russian conversation, allusions to Chekhov’s play The Seagull, quotidian conversation about relationships, synchronized movement, a rehearsal process, and more.  This is an evening in which the sight of Masha dourly gliding across the stage on a skateboard is not merely to be expected, it’s a regular occurrence.  Nina’s yearning for Trigorin (here called Peter) is transformed into a niece’s desire for her uncle’s approval.  Arkadina is played by a young woman, rendering the character’s vanity about her appearance apt indeed.  Polina is most often an observer on the action, until it comes time to play the guitar or assume the role of director.  And Treplov is a hipster who wouldn’t look remotely out of place in Williamsburg.

If it sounds like a grab-bag of elements that don’t fit together, well, there’s a little more discipline at work than that, perhaps.  Tina Satter seems to be interested in the itch inside Chekhov, the combined feelings of dissatisfaction and powerlessness that render Chekhov’s work universal.  And yet, like most dreams, Seagull (Thinking of you) suffers from an aimlessness that doesn’t help its cause.  The flat-affect delivery of every line by every actor is sometimes funny but more often leaves no impression at all, and there is no story here, just experience.  And so at an hour and a half, the play cannot help but feel attenuated.  None of the cast really makes any impression, though Emily Davis as Nina has a few nice moments when emotion is permitted to make a small appearance.

Chris Giarmo’s sound and original music are excellent (and too infrequent) additions to the proceedings, and Zack Tinkelman’s lighting is varied and effective.  The clothes, by Enver Chakartash, are more of a mixed bag; deconstruction seems most literally exhibited in the costumes, to inconsistent effect.  On the whole, this show is dry as toast, by design; whether you enjoy it will depend largely on your taste for experiential theater.

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