Theater Reviews

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Walter Kerr Theatre, New York (Through Dec. 21)

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 the replacement of Peter Sarsgaard for 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 constantly provides little details that convey the character's selfishness, no more so than in the scene when Arkadina's elderly brother, Sorin (Peter Wright), suddenly passes out. At first frozen, as if deciding whether the disruption is worth any effort, she finally springs into action, delivering a glass of water to the stricken man. But not before taking a drink from it herself.

The supporting cast is equally sublime. Mackenzie Crook (familiar from his role on the original British version of the television series "The Office") is movingly pathetic as the doomed Konstantin, who is unable to overcome his despair over his unrequited love for the beautiful Nina, sensitively played by Carey Mulligan. Another standout is Art Malik, who brings a consistently intriguing balance between amusement and tenderness to his turn as Dr. Dorn.

The production's stark but highly effective design elements, including the haunting incidental music by Stephen Warbeck, lose none of their power in the larger confines of the Walter Kerr Theatre.

While there has been an absolute glut of "Seagull" revivals recently presented in New York, this rendition is special enough to make its return a welcome event nonetheless.

Production: Royal Court Theatre.
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Peter Sarsgaard, Mackenzie Crook, Art Malik, Carey Mulligan, Pearce Quigley, Peter Wright, Zoe Kazan, Ann Dowd, Julian Gamble, Christopher Patrick Nolan.
Playwright: Anton Chekhov.
New version: Christopher Hampton.
Director: Ian Rickson.
Presented by Sonia Friedman Productions, Bob Boyett, Robert G. Bartner, Dede Harris, Norman & Steven Tulchin, Fox Theatricals, Dena Hammerstein, Sharon Karmazin, Olympus Theatricals, Spring Sirkin, Tara Smith, Morton Swinsky, Karl Sydown, The Weinstein Company, Falkenstein/Deroy, Florin/Hirschborn and Gutterman/McGinnis
Scenic and costume design: Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting design: Peter Mumford
Sound design: Ian Dickinson
Composer: Stephen Warbeck





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