Chekhov’s wry and tender study of unfulfilled lives is stifled in a new translation by Tom Stoppard. The Blue Light Theater Co. production of “The Seagull” suffers on several levels. Performed sans intermission, the play never soars. The acting ensemble fails to form a cohesive bond, and individual performances range from barely acceptable to embarrassingly mawkish. The major fault would seem to lie with the languid and lumbered staging by Austin Pendleton.
The director’s deliberate approach seems to be in search of the quiet melancholy and boring discontent of Chekhov’s frustrated household. What should be wistful and touching is simply dour. An emotional pitch is missing here, and one’s heart should be able to reach out to these people. The actors seldom give us the opportunity.
Maria Tucci, as the self-centered, flamboyant actress Arkadina, displays a temperamental attitude and is coyly ardent as she attempts to preserve her relationship with Trigorin (Mark Blum), a second-rate novelist. Missing is the charm and grace of a celebrated stage actress.
Blum, as the weary but impassioned author, displays little passion or desperation, and Joe Ponazecki provides a one-note, expressionless portrait as the resigned and indifferent doctor. In Stoppard’s pruned version, the wan Masha seems to have lost her sharp tongue, giving Francesca Di Mauro little more to do than mope about.
Greg Naughton, as the suicidal aspiring playwright Konstantin, and Angie Phillips, as the restless seagull Nina, never find the true anguish and intensity of their characters, and there is little chemistry between them. The stage-struck Nina, as portrayed by Phillips, is more fidgety than restless, and a rueful sigh becomes merely a whine.
Only Tom Brennan manages to reveal some blustery humor as the rural bailiff. Blue Light has assembled a fine, experienced cast, but they are wandering here without a unified focus. Pendleton is good at creating picturesque little groupings that often convey the summery resonance of a Renoir picnic. Unfortunately, the director’s pretty canvas never comes to life.