'The Seagull' swoops into the Alley Theatre
By Dianna Wray/DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Feb. 15, 2012 at 1:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 14, 2012 at 8:15 p.m.
When he was working on his play, "The Seagull," Anton Chekhov told people he was writing a comedy.
Only Chekhov could write a comedy that ends with a death.
If you're looking for proof, check out the Alley Theatre's production of "The Seagull."
The famed Russian writer wrote the story of a group of artistic types vacationing at a country estate.
Their loves and ambitions overlap, tying them together as they look for meaning in life and the longings that go unfulfilled. Over the course of the play, some get what they want, some learn to want what they have, and some simply give up.
Arkadina, a fading actress, has arrived at her brother's estate with her lover, Trigorin, and her son, Konstantin.
Konstantin longs to write plays that break new artistic ground. He also longs to win the love of Nina, a young actress who lives on a neighboring estate. Nina is infatuated with Arkadina's lover Trigorin, and a girl named Masha is head over heels for Konstantin.
If you've ever read Chekhov, you know the odds of all of this unrequited love working out well are not very high. I mean, he is Russian, after all.
Still, this is a comedic drama, so it's funny right up to the end, when, in true Chekhovian fashion, things take a turn for the dark.
There's lots of pining and pondering of the nature of art along the way, and it digs into the frustrating habit so many of us have of never being able to love the one you can have as much as the one you'll never get.
It's a fascinating work, complex because so much of what the characters mean is found in how they say things and the words that remain unsaid.
One character despairs when he realizes he won't ever get what he wants, another finds a way to make peace with the truth.
The Rolling Stones had it right, because you can't always get what you want. In "The Seagull," how you deal with that realization is up to you.