"It's sort of a love quartet," director Ann Ciccolella says of The Seagull. "That is, many people are in love with other people, and they don't necessarily get those people. But Chekhov himself said it had tons of love, and that it does."
As with many of his plays, Anton Chekhov considered The Seagull to be a comedy. It is, but it's also a very Russian comedy -- full of passion and love and death and crushed dreams. Dramaturge Marina Alexandrova (herself a Russian native) has been on hand during the production to help insure that the play retains its Russianness.
"It generally means that I give the cultural background and help [the] actors understand their roles a little better," Alexandrova says. "Just minor but very important details, because Chekhov was a playwright for whom details were very important, so it's just helping to make sure that it all feels Chekhovian."
The British Matt Radford Davies, who's playing Trigorin, the famous novelist, has worked to find that Chekhovian balance in his performance. "It's very easy to turn these into rather polite British comedies," he says. "Just as it's quite easy to turn them into rather intense American pieces of drama, and somehow you've got to find something that's Russian about it. And I think it's something to do with the passion that's always just below the surface and sometimes bursts out.”
It's a part he's essayed once before. "It's my second shot at the part -- I did it ten years ago," he says. This time around, "the sense of a midlife crisis is easier to grasp. It's painfully close to the truth," he adds with a laugh.
Corinna Browning, as Nina, is appearing in The Seagull for the first time. For her, learning about Russian life and the social mores of the time was an entry point to creating the character. "There are so many details and it's important to get all of them correct, and to have all of them as the framework going into the world of the play," she says. "And that was definitely a challenge."
"It's brilliantly crafted," Ciccolella says of the script. "And it is funny. And sad at the same time. Chekhov's such a genius."