The Seagull - Goodman Theatre (theatre review by guest blogger Mary Rose O'Connor)
Let me start off by saying that I was in no way solicited to review this play. In fact, I didn’t know I was seeing it until Facebook told me so around 4pm. But The Seagull is one of my fave plays because I have no life. And therefore the open invite from the internet, via my friend Claire Tuft, who’s really cool and everyone should know, seemed like an offer I couldn’t refuse.
She told me to get there early, and after devouring a burger and potato leek soup at The Emerald Loop in less than 20 minutes, I got there fashionably 90 minutes early. That lobby is so pretty at Christmas. And they play a lot of Manheim Steamroller before the show. I’m not sure what that has to do with Russian actors, but I DO know what it has to do with the week after Halloween: CHRISTMAS IS COMING. By the way, you can buy A Muppet Christmas Carol in the lobby at The Goodman. (No one from The Goodman had anything to do creatively with that film.)
Claire got there and we enjoyed an enormous cookie and a lot of coffee. And then went in for the LONG HAUL. A lot of weird stuff happened during the show. Some woman, (unintentionally dressed as Mrs. Claus) got up during the climax of the play to go pee. In the first 10 minutes, someone dropped their ticket stub off the balcony, onto the middle of the stage, (where I’m pretty sure everyone wondered for the next 20 minutes how the actors were going to get rid of it). Somewhere in the middle of Act II, several sheets of looseleaf paper fell from the balcony/sky/phantom-of-the-opera/Tony-Kushner-stage-direction onto someone’s head in the orchestra. I think a lot of people were mad because those guys’ seats were better. But really, no one could complain because tickets were half price. This explains why there were so many local celebrities (actors) in the house. Geoff Button was there.
The play is about artists, what it means to have passion, drug addictions, unrequited love and young mistresses/gigolos. They sang some songs and drank a lot. Francis Guinan was in it. He’s my favorite actor. I’ve named him “the king of standing still” because he can do literally NOTHING with his body on stage and I will eat out of the palm of his hand. He was awesome. In the second act he had a lisp. I wasn’t sure why. I think that’s what happens to Russians when they get older. I guess he’s “method.”
Mary Beth Fisher was in it too. She’s what my “boyfriend” calls Fieeeerce. She was really pretty on stage, and her performance was fantastic. She moved all over the stage, taking really long steps, when she talked, and sometimes rolled around. In Act II she came out with this really weird purse that I think stole the show a little bit. I couldn’t decide if I wanted it for myself, or just wanted it off the stage. But SHE was great. She played an actress (I love when theatre does that-actors who play actors), with a supes hawt younger man (played by my other favorite Chicago male actor Cliff Chamberlain), and a tortured playwright son played by the brooding and ageless Stephen Grush. Stephen Grush has a lot of tattoos that, from the balcony, you can see through his American Apparel shirt. I can’t say I understood what time period this took place, or why some actors looked like they were from the 1930s, while other actors wore Jellies and cargo pants…
The set was cool. They put the actors on a raked dock-like boarded floor. Those kinds of floors always make me nervous that someone’s going to fall down. The only one who fell down a lot though was Francis Guinan. He was ok, until they put him in a modern wheelchair for Act II. I hope he can walk again. Otherwise I’m changing his title to “the king of sitting still.”
I read The Seagull in college, and remembered that Marcia Gay Harden played Masha once, which surprised me when Kelly O’Sullivan played her because she’s a lot younger and not nearly as bitchy looking. But she was still pretty aggressive in that Million Dollar Baby/Fried Green Tomatoes kind of way, and really brought a new element of naïveté and angst that I think really only works with younger actors. It was refreshing.
The lighting was weird, it never got dark; There were really no transitions. Actors would freeze in place and then move onto the next scene. I think that was deliberate. And I don’t know why it was. I think directors often make a choice that says “Isn’t it neat how I made the actors do weird stuff that actually ties into the story so that you’ll do the 'audience grunt of approval’ so that everyone around you knows that you ‘get it?’” Then there are the choices make sense. And then there are the choices where the audience starts laughing awkwardly and looking at each other with the “is this supposed to happen?” eyes. I think the transitions fell into the third category. As my Grandfather used to say “I just need the time. You don’t need to build me a clock.” Sorry Goodmen, the play was gorgeous except for the 10 times when it suddenly looked like a scene from Mannequin.
Overall the evening was fun. Who knew Chekhov did comedies? With suicide, and animal mutilation? Not me! I think it’s only playing this weekend, and I probably ruined it for you already, but the cookies are good, you can buy Christmas DVDs in the lobby (killing two birds with one stone—like in The Seagull—get it?) and the play is rull good. You’ll like it, and if you don’t, just throw shit on the people below or go walk around the orchestra aimlessly during a part where everyone’s trying to pay attention.
The Seagull B+
PS Someone’s ringtone went off and it was just someone’s voice repeating “I love you.” It’s really weird when that stuff happens and you’re NOT high.