A Collection of More (Good) Words Words Words

from the Washington Post Backstage columnist Jane Horwitz:

First, I really really enjoyed “Seagull” last night. I know you were struggling with how to balance the play itself with the Jewish themes you sought to weave into it, but I thought the struggle wasn’t apparent on the stage. Really strong casting. I could see how you were inspired by that London production, but it still felt original to me.

Anyway, if i’m able to squeeze in a Follow Spot about your Wednesday night (June 24) discussion, do you know whether you’ll have anything on your website?

Yes, our website will have more information about our Wednesday, June 24 10 pm discussion, following the 7:30 performance of SEAGULL ON 16TH STREET. The title: A Discussion on the Recent Presidential Elections in Iran and Violent Government Response to Student Protests with BENEDICTUS co-creator Mahmood Karimi-Hakak. More on this blog about it tomorrow.

Now more words…

from director Jeffrey Sichel, of Catholic U, who saw the play early in previews…

The things that I noticed and appreciated in the work last night…

1. The use of the REM songs – I thought these made great access points for audiences of my age group and the singing was quite beautiful. They gave punctuation from a great American poet (Michael Stipe)
2. The scenic and coustume world of course carries strong point of view about the work and it’s tradition. It reminds us that this is a play. We are in a theatre. I do wish the clock would move though!!! Just reset for different scenes. Not in motion. I also enjoyed the moment of the projections in the play within play and wonder if that might not be brought back somehow in act IV
3. The play within play was beautifully executed. I was pulled in my the idea of “Sabbath Bride” and the Havdalah Ritual being woven into the whole of the play. But then I have a question of how it plays out in the end of Act IV with what I could only read as Konstantin having lit his own Yartzite rather then Havdalah. Which leads to question of whether Masha should sing Havdalah or Mourners Kaddish at end. Perhaps this would be too definite and not your intention – but it reads that way now.
4. I think the whole evening asks provocative questions about the what is religious, spiritual and artistic…the role of the artist and his relationship to these things. Of course you hit on all the usual
issues of form and content and the things I would expect in this play in terms of the writer/artist and theatre.
5. You bring Polina better into focus then most productions that I have seen and I have strong pathos for her.

6. I think about the “collective failure” lines of your writing and how clear it is. very moving and in a way justifying the whole evening in terms of a jewish conscience.

The whole production is provocative for me. It generated about eight pages of notes of things that I will think about. I will watch again once it is up and running and before I sit on panel on 5 July.

It will have different meanings for audiences who know the play and for those who see it for the first time. But of course you know this. I was watching your point of view as much as the play and I
enjoy that element in theatrical experience.

I give many congratulations on this first preview and am excited to see how play will grow over course of run.

Finally I wonder why American audiences can’t learn to give proper applause for a production. Everywhere else in the world the stage artists are given respect for their work. Here – I just can’t

Finally, this review, our first:

Drama and Dance
There have been many adaptations and translations of Chekhov’s “The Sea Gull” (To 7/19) and Ari Roth’s from a translation by Carol Rocamora…with its Jewish overlay of themes…seems more appropriate to Chekhov’s consistent protests against conventions and rules and lies and oppression found in all of his plays. Such is lacking in other obscure adaptations. The addition of modern songs, however, is a little too jarring and anachronistic for russophiles and could easily be omitted. This production has a power-packed cast with solid interactions that chill and thrill an audience. With the addition of most sensitive and creative directing by John Vreeke, this production is one of the most emotionally fulfilling stage productions of the season in the nation’s capital. Alexander Strain’s star reaches a zenith as the young playwright and writer who is emotionally labile at the start but reaches a fine maturity by Act 4 even though it leads to tragedy. His last scene with Nina (Veronica del Cerro)…who also seems to achieve a conflicting maturity…in which she rejects him was so filled with underlying seething passion that this audience member matched his heavy breathing. Others outstanding in the cast were Naomi Jacobson as the actress mother who could run the gamut of emotion in her character’s life as she does in her roles on the Russian stage; J. Fred Shiffman who always makes the finest character decisions; and Nanna Ingvarsson as the mother and aunt, who is becoming one of the most dependable character actresses around. Other fine performances were given by Stephen Patrick Martin, Jerry Whiddon, Brian Hemmingsen, Tessa Klein, Mark Krawczyk, and Jason McCool. The technicals all ran smoothly and the most wonderful thing about this production is that all of the actors were well spoken and fully listening to the other characters sharing the stage which only mature stage actors can provide. This is a highly recommended production. (Reviewed by Bob Anthony)