THE SEAGULL PLAYBILL
Written by Anton Chekhov
Satirikon Arkady Raikin Russian State Theatre
The people of Chekhov’s “Seagull” live in a fictional world where theater is the meaning of their life, more than love, it substitutes everything, but it also brings pain and loneliness and tears souls apart. People who devote themselves to this theater monster are often unhappy, maybe even more than they should, but they seem to know something that no one else knows…
Yury Butusov, Director
Konstantin Treplev is nervous and readying himself for a performance of his play. He longs to be accepted by his peers as a great dramatist. His mother, Irina Arkadina, does not love him and is jealous of anyone else's success other than her own. He is in love with Nina, who, herself, wants to become a famous actress.
Likewise, Medvedenko, a hapless school teacher, is in love with Masha (the daughter of Shamrayev, the farm manager of Arkadina's estate), who, in turn, is in love with Konstantin. The love triangles don’t end there. Dorn, a local doctor, is having an affair with the farm manager’s wife, Polina, and Arkadina is worried that her partner, Trigorin, a famous writer, will fall in love with the younger ingenue, Nina, and attempts to keep them apart at every turn.
Lament is a looming figure over much of the proceedings. Dorn, the doctor, longs for a life of adulation, Sorin, the elder brother of Arkadina, sees in retrospect, a life wasted, and Shamrayev, the farm manager, impotently attempts to exert his will over both the estate and his wayward wife.
Two weeks later, over lunch, all the raging emotions begin to ricochet off one another. Arkadina is, in turns, mortified and defensive of rejecting her son’s abstract and symbolic play, Masha desperately tries to balance her feelings for Konstantin with the reality that he does not return her feelings, and Polina both chides and begs for the doctor’s affections.
Nina, who is free of her stepmother’s clutches, revels in the prospects of a bright future. At that moment, Konstantin enters with a dead seagull and puts the bird at Nina's feet. Convinced that she does not love him because his play was a failure, he exits bitterly on seeing her growing fondness for Trigorin.
Trigorin arrives on the scene and announces that he and Arkadina are to leave at once. He looks at the seagull that Konstantin shot and conveys to Nina that she has inspired him to start a new story about a girl who, like the dead seagull, is ruined by a man. Arkadina interrupts announcing that she has been convinced to stay on at the estate.
Masha, drowning her sorrows in vodka, confides to Trigorin about her plan to abandon her love for Konstantin and instead marry Medvedenko. Trigorin, who has recently been challenged to a duel by the increasingly erratic Konstantin, merges Masha’s troubles with his own. Nina and Trigorin then meet clandestinely and she gives him a parting gift, a pendent which overtly implies that she is ready to run off with him. Arkadina, meanwhile, argues with her brother over her indifference to Konstantin’s needs. He has recently shot himself, an accidental moment of passion it is said. Arkadina convinces her brother that all will be well once she and Trigorin leave the estate.
Before departing, Arkadina helps Konstantin unwrap his bandages. The conversation quickly devolves into an argument, leaving Konstantin feeling unloved and unwanted. Similarly, Arkadina is fighting for her life with Trigorin, questioning him about his interest in Nina. Fearing that she will lose the man she loves, Arkadina pleads and begs for Trigorin to leave with her. He agrees, but before exiting he shares a few private moments with Nina.
Two years later, Medvedenko is berating Masha for neglecting their child, preferring, as she does, to stay on the estate nearer to her beloved Konstantin. He leaves alone. Konstantin by now has become a writer of some rank, but when his mother and Trigorin return triumphantly, he is again made to feel insignificant.
Nina’s story, meanwhile, is revealed through letters she’s written to Konstantin which she ominously signs off as “the Seagull”. She had an affair with Trigorin and became pregnant, but, the baby died. She played starring roles on the stage, but the reviews were unkind and her career was stagnating. She is in town, it is said, but she refuses to meet with anyone.
Eventually she visits Konstantin and they share a few moments of dimming memories and false hopes. She still loves Trogorin deeply. A final, fatal blow to Konstantin. Word comes a few moments later that Konstantin Gavrilovich has shot himself.