Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Sync

I'll be honest: I think I kind of over-wrote this latest review in Style. But dammit if Chekhov doesn't inspire one to do so. His work is so rich and hearty, full of psychological insight, fraught with deeply felt emotion, and of course chock full of great language. I kind of couldn't lay off the adjectives.

But probably the most succinct thing I could say about the performance of "The Seagull" that I saw was that, with only one exception, the ensemble seemed very much in sync. No one actor's performance really blew me away but, as I said in the review, the whole crew worked together exceptionally well to bring the rhythms and interactions of the play to life. There were many small, intimate moments in the play where the actors clearly supported each other, worked in tandem to create crystalline pictures of sweet and agonizing love. Irina changing Konstantin's dressings, Trigorin and Nina exploring the level of their attraction, Dr. Dorn trying to understand Masha, the heartbreaking last scene between Nina and Konstantin. Done right, "The Seagull" is definitely a play that can make you feel the pain of the human condition and I left that performance a little sore.

A couple of specific notes: it's great to see just how comfortable Frank Creasy is on stage. In this show, he gives one of those performances that don't come across as acting at all. Very natural, very well done. Though Stephen Ryan is easily overlooked in his smaller role here, he is perfect as the poor neglected teacher. Though the character is pathetic, Ryan doesn't overplay it and he's just annoying enough that you feel for him but also don't hold him blameless for his position either. And Kerry McGee -- sigh -- my 28th or so crush of the year. Frankly, when I saw her in "Spanish Tragedy," I thought she was a little too petulant and contemporary for her role. But she is a great brooding, broken, and beautiful Masha. With Ryan and McGee as inspirations, I think we could have gotten Chekhov to do a sequel to "The Seagull" called something like "Masha and Medvedenko at Home." I'd pay to see that.

One final shout out to Fred Kaufman -- a definite delight on stage, always thoroughly invested in what's going on, even when he's portraying someone asleep! His performance made some of the play's early expositional dialogue actually enjoyable instead of just palatable.

All in all, a good effort for Henley Street. I'm not yet giddy with anticipation for "Richard III" -- mostly because there's plenty of good theater that's going to be happening in Richmond before the fall -- but I expect around August I will be.


Thespis' Little Helper said...

Over-wrote in half a page?

I wish you guys could have a whole two page spread!

My favorite quote from the review:
"downright spiffy".

It just made me giggle.

Stephen Ryan (I only recently realized...cuz I'd only seen him in one thing before...and he was dead-on in that but it's always hard to tell) is a really fantastic actor. So captivating and present and...yeah...big fan. Haven't seen this yet, but he really rocked my world in The Spanish Tragedy.

I'm already excited about Richard III with the likes of Margarette Joyner, Jeanie Rule, and Melissa Johnston Price joining Scott on stage. Yeah. I get more excited with each new cast member I hear about.

Fred Kaufman said...

This Freddy Kaufman.

Thanks for the Shout Out. Much appreciated.

I thought it a good opportunity to speak on the subject of "entertaining classics."

Chekhov, like Shakespeare can be a challenge to read and stay awake, even if you have a Theater degree.

I have spent six summers with Grant Mudge and Richmond Shakespeare doing fine work and now I find myself for the first time acting Chekhov. One thing has become clear to me. The emsemble approach is the only way to bring a "classic" to life.

Much of the credit for this production goes to Alex Primavera our producer who was very shrewd to go to Chekhov for emsemble potential. Next he found a group of actors who were not only talented but who wanted to make the collective experience work.

Alex's best move might have been in hiring Bob Vernon to direct. Bob had never directed Chekhov either but what Bob does have is the "touch". As a director you either have it or you don't. A humble man of humour and intellect (despite being a rabid Red Sox fan), Bob was able to do what alot of directors only try to do - communicate effectively with his staff. After all you can't communicate to an audience if the director hasn't communicated his vision to you.

It's a shame more people won't see this production. "The Seagull" doesn't have the same selling potential as "Iron Man" or even "Harold and Kumar" despite being a million times worthier of attention.

I, for one, took no offense that no one performance "blew you away." I would have been disappointed if one had. An emsemble piece has no space for a "star turn". You can't expect at once both a cast "in sync" and one showcasing one the four or five splashy talents that consistently star in Richmond Theater.

This may not have been a home run but certainly it was a stand up double. Extra base for breathing life into a dusty warhorse. Runner advances to third, waiting for the next batter to bring him home (wearing Yankee pinstripes of course).