Taking in plays, finishing up revisions to budget, meeting with cartoonist Ben Katchor about his music-theater pieces, pounding the glorious pavement of New York, staying at my sister’s. Had this frustration on Amtrak this morning: I open my recently purchased DVD of Louis Malle’s VANYA ON 42ND STREET to screen on the train in preparation for this afternoon’s production of THE SEAGULL at CSC on 13th Street starring Dianne Wiest. You see, I’m working on an idea for a potential something… And the DVD I get set to screen is, yes, cracked. Fresh out of the box. Does this happen to Amazon shipments often? It’s a first for me and I’m pissed! A squandered opportunity to commune with an interpretation I love. Will I get my money back?
I love THE SEAGULL. And am grateful for this challenging, pretty terrific production here, directed by Viacheslav Dolgachev. Not quite THE SEAGULL we saw a year ago in London (shall we bounce back to read what we wrote a year ago?)
Let me crib from the beautiful essay written by Classic Stage Company artistic director, Brian Kulick:
I often play a game with myself where I try to distill a great author’s work down to two words, a kind of “Name That Tune” for theatre makers. In this game Shakespeare’s canon is reduced to Kent’s injunction for Lear to “See Better…” As for Chekhov, the battle cry from THE SEAGULL to THE CHERRY ORCHARD would be “Live Now.”
… One can see this viewpoint further elaborated in Chekhov’s critique of a story by a young author about a peasant. In it, Chekhov implores the author to: “write how this young man squeezes the slave out of himself, drop my drop, and how, on awaking one fine morning, he finds that the blood coursing through his veins is no longer that of a slave, but that of a human being.”
This is what Chekhov did with himself and this is what he demanded of his characters and his readers; rallying them to liberate themselves from anything that stops them from becoming “real human beings.” Chekhov’s canon chronicles those who can accomplish this and those who, sadly, are incapable of such transformation.
In Chekhov’s journal, one finds the following observation: What matters most is to break out of the rut. Everything else is unimportant.”
I’d say that shot of inspiration’s worth the Amtrak up, cracked DVD notwithstanding, no?
More upon returning…