'The Seagull'

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The Royal Court Theatre's production of "The Seagull" has flown triumphantly from London to New York with most of its acclaimed cast intact.

This beautifully modulated revival of Chekhov's classic, presented in a new version by playwright Christopher Hampton ("Les Liaisons Dangereuses") and starring Kristin Scott Thomas in her belated New York stage debut, figures to be the snob theater event of Broadway's fall season.

The major cast change in the production, staged by departed Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson (it was his swan song), is Peter Sarsgaard replacing Chiwetel Ejiofor in the key role of aloof, self-absorbed writer Trigorin. His interpretation somewhat edgier and less likable than his predecessor, Sarsgaard delivers an intelligent, nuanced turn that gives the play a somewhat darker tone than it had in London.

Thomas perfectly captures the aging actress Arkadina's vainglorious air. She provides details that convey the character's selfishness, never more so than when Arkadina's brother, Sorin (Peter Wright), passes out. At first frozen, as if deciding whether the disruption is worth any effort, she springs into action, delivering a glass of water to the stricken man. But not before taking a drink herself.

The supporting cast is equally sublime. Mackenzie Crook is movingly pathetic as the doomed Konstantin, who is unable to overcome his despair over his unrequited love for Nina (sensitively played by Carey Mulligan). Another standout is Art Malik, who brings an intriguing balance between amusement and tenderness to his turn as Dr. Dorn.

The production's stark but highly effective design elements lose none of their power in the larger confines of the Walter Kerr.

While there has been a glut of "Seagull" revivals presented in New York, this rendition is special enough to make its return a welcome event. (partialdiff)
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