June 4, 1970: Chekhov, The Seagull

Aldwych Theatre. Moscow Art Theatre

I saw for the first time yesterday the Moscow Art Theatre, in The Seagull, part of the World Theater season at the Aldwych. There is certainly no false reverence to Chekhov in evidence, but there is not much freshness to be sensed, either, in their treatment of the play. I think they are stale on this play, despite some fine performances, notably the Masha. The Madame Arkadina was disappointing, not because she was so unsoulful but simply because she was boring. The settings, too, were intentionally tawdry and unintentionally quite uninteresting. What jarred most of all was the piped music between scenes: bad Tchaikovsky, reminiscent of bad Hollywood. I resent being played upon between scenes. Yet the production did have a gradually increasing power that made it worth seeing. There was little subtlety — and surprisingly little laughter, either — but the performers after all are Russian, and their sense of the fine line between the lyrical and the ludicrous, between love and ironic bathos, is fairly sure. In the rather broad style they use, we are not likely to miss these authentic Chekhovian shifts of tone and mood, anyway.


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An American Playgoer in London by Joseph Donohue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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