Posts Tagged ‘Anton Chekhov

28
Apr
18

Seagullmachine: My Review

Seagullmachine 1Seagullmachine, now being presented at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, is the totally immersive creation of The Assembly which describes itself as a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists committed to realizing a visceral and intelligent theater for a new generation. There are two distinct parts to this creation which was principally conceived by Assembly member Nick Benacerraf with a script by Anton Chekhov, Heiner Muller, The Assembly, and with a nod to William Shakespeare.

The first part has the audience ushered passed an empty performance space and through a door to a performance space with three quarter seating and set pieces and props everywhere. A wall with a metal garage door separates you from the empty space. As you take your seat there are actors milling about, warming up, reading their notes, and laying about on couches or sitting at desks presumably pondering what’s to come. What eventually follows is a traditional execution of Anton Chekov’s The Seagull. The racially diverse and multigenerational cast is as effective as they can be in this relatively staid world. They do shine at times though, and with all candor, the entire ensemble is to be commended for the multiple roles, both real and unreal, they will each pull off during the balance of their time on stage.

After intermission in what is the midst of a performance length of two hours and forty-five minutes we return to Chekov’s Seagull but as the action progresses and at the moment when Konstantin would normally shoot himself a jarring change occurs. Someone begins banging loudly on the garage door. Up to this point the large rolling metal door has been being used as a curtain to a supposed stage set against a field and a distant lake in this play within a play world. What follows is a full blown sequined Baz Luhrmann-like musical extravaganza of the obscure ten-page play Hamletmachine by German postmodern dramatist Heiner Mueller. In addition to the confounding confusion, sight lines are a definite problem here. It doesn’t help that the garage door wall bisecting the set designed by Nick Benacerraf and Emmie Finckel does not prove entirely effective for a good portion of the house observing from the three-quarter round seating.

Seagullmachine 2The next part of the evening has the audience being lead back to the once empty performance space to find themselves surrounded by loud, brash, neon colored costumes on display. Costume designer Kate Fry having been restrained in the first section was now allowed to go all out and her work is quite beautiful in its glorious absurdity. Here in this world the voyeurs are encouraged to walk around, view the costumes, speak to the cast, some of whom have now changed into colorful garb, and even help others change into the clothing on display. There amongst the multitude of flat screens playing images of social destruction and broadcasts of gloom and doom with disco music blaring and dancing encouraged the cast begins recitations and pronouncements until an observer is chosen to be the sacrificial Dane.

This theatrical double play, co-directed by Jess Chayes and Nick Benacerraf, doesn’t ever gel enough to actually work together. As much as they try to make the pieces fit the whole is never greater than the sum of its parts. The Seagull portion is passible and would work well on its own if it didn’t feel as if it was just a long setup for the rest of the show to come. The first half of the Hamletmachine section is just bizarrely out of place and so overblown to everything that precedes it that any hope of it being a bridge to what follows is immediately lost. The colorful, daring, and fancifully shocking madness of the latter part is left to try and make sense of it all. The task is too much for it to bear because everything leading up to that moment feels so distant and unrelated.

Experimental theatre is indeed a risky business. Abstract ideas need to meet real-world dilemmas and then be delivered in a strong and unified voice that leaves the audience moved in ways they never expected in forms they themselves could never visualize as possible. The Assembly may rightly believe there is a conceptual connection to this production but it’s a seemingly thin one. What’s truly missing is a strong enough artistic through line to connect this duo of extremely individual experiences. Shock for shocks sake never works on its own. It needs a solid foundation to land the blow. With Seagullmachine The Assembly is clearly brave enough to take risks they just need to unify the voice they deliver it with.

La MaMa
Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 E 4th St
212.254.6468
http://lamama.org/seagull_machine/
$30

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

12
Feb
18

The Chekhov Dreams: My Review

Chekhov Dreams 3Sometimes in the world of theatre you run into the seemingly perfect show. Everything appears to be just as it should be. The actors are talented and in some cases truly gifted. The script is appropriately funny, or tragic, or both whichever the case may be. The design facets are successfully executed and presented. The direction is in line with the text and equally in sync with the production. The audience is responding right on cue as expected. Yet in spite of all that there’s something just not right overall. As smooth as everything seems, as hard as everyone is working to nail it, there’s a nagging feeling that there’s something rotten in the state of Minsk. The Chekhov Dreams, currently playing at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, is one such show.

Jeremy is an independently wealthy struggling wanna be author. One evening over lots of wine, and a mutual game of guess the quote by which famous literary figure, Jeremy and his recently ex-girlfriend Kate form a blood oath to reach out and remain together in this life and the afterlife. This of course immediately leads to her death in a car accident. Three years later the still rich and now lost Jeremy is struggling to finish his first book. His opus is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen which was a favorite story of his since childhood. In the midst of the struggle he begins having regular dreams where Kate comes to visit. She taunts, and teases, and seduces him. Her temptations are too great, and his fear of failure is too overwhelming, so Jeremy makes another pact to kill himself and marry his now dead fiancée. This decision is no easy task to complete as his life proceeds to get more complicated.

Jeremy’s narcissistic hedonist of a brother Eddie keeps trying to cure his doldrums to no avail. Jeremy also wants to finish his book before he departs so he takes an acting class to help him release his creative juices. It’s there that he meets his acting scene partner Chrissy. She comes with her own imposing wants and needs including a love of Jeremy’s least favorite author Anton Chekhov. Of course, the scene their working on is from Chekhov’s The Seagull. It’s not long before the dead fiancée becomes jealous and impatient. She not only keeps up her dream visits she also begins appearing in Jeremy’s apartment while he’s awake causing him much distress and added mayhem. On top of all that Chekhov also begins taking on a featured role in his dreams as mentor, advisor, author, and dramaturge.

Chekhov Dreams 2Dana Watkins as Jeremy has the makings of a good leading man. He pulls off the awkward, dazed and confused romantic, along with the tortured lover and author to be. Elizabeth Inghram as the deceased Kate does very well as mortal girlfriend, seductive spirit, and eventually manipulative evil queen. As Chrissy, the ingenue and Chekhov scene partner, Charlotte Stoiber embodies a hopeful somewhat naive actress in search of true meaning in her work and in matters of the heart.

Christian Ryan as Jeremy’s flawed, heavy drinking, chain smoking lothario of a brother is in fine comic form. His scenes bring a laugh filled breath of fresh air into each scene he appears in. Rik Walter as the legendary director and writer Anton Chekhov is every bit the stately, stern, and imposing dark genius one might expect but he brings with it a sassy comedic edge that is fun to watch.

As already mentioned the cast is a talented lot. While each player plays their part the problem with the ensemble is one of what appears to be nervous energy. No one seems to be able to be still. There’s constant unnecessary movement and in some cases unconscious mirroring of each other’s actions. There’s also that unwavering feeling of trying too hard to please. It’s not always the case. When they connect with themselves, the erratic material, and the house, the ensemble plays very well together but for the most part this is all a hit or miss affair.

In support of the production the design team set themselves some very ambitious goals and for the most part they achieve them. Costume designer Christina Giannini is well represented. Along with the needed every day wear of the characters that inhabit this world she’s able to shine with beautiful period costumes that make the dreams they have so vivid. Lighting designer Diana Duecker and sound designer John McKinney more than ably deliver on setting the mood and the tone for both the real and the surreal proceedings. Scenic designer Scott Aronow had the larger challenge of having to wrangle many settings into one multi-dimensional set. His solution and execution does work nicely even though it was a bit wobbly at times. An extra support here, an additional nail there, and this minor quibble is eliminated.

Chekhov Dreams 1All is not lost because there’s a gem of a show to be mined her but the excavation would have to go deep. Writer John McKinney and director Leslie Kincaid Burby could and should go back to the drawing boards on this one and uncover all that this script truly has to offer. There are warnings already built into this current version. In his dreamy appearances Chekhov warns of not using too many devices to advance the plot and yet he himself becomes one. He also warns that not everything is to be explained and yet that happens often in this production. Particularly in the fact that the play goes one scene too long for the sake of trying to wrap everything up with a neat bow. In fact, the entire show runs a bit too long. If the next incarnation were trimmed down to a tight intermissonless ninety minutes, as opposed to the overstuffed feeling of the current with an intermission two hour plus version, the entire company might find themselves with a dream worth having again.

Theatre Row
Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
www.chekhovdreams.com
(212) 239-6200
$44.25

Now Playing Through Feb 17, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.




Edward Medina Author

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