Elevator repair service drags out Chekhov’s ‘seagull’

Anton Chekhov seagull It has haunted audiences since its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1896. While it’s a comedy, it’s considered a tragedy — not surprising given how it turned out.

The Elevator Repair Service, a 30-year-old experimental theater group that’s now playing tricks in NYU’s Skilborough Auditorium, takes apart serious literary and theatrical productions and massages them into lively, often hilarious ways The history of the new version.Previous voice In a 1993 review of an early ERS article, arts and culture editor Brian Parks described the approach as “a sort of intuitive artistic farce”.When it works, it’s great, like GatesFitzgerald’s six-hour staged version the great gatsby (First directed in Brussels in 2006 by John Collins, founding director of ERS​​). Gates Premiered at the Cambridge School of Art in 2010, then at the New York Public Theatre; Ben Brantley, New York eralater called Gates One of the best works of the decade.

That’s how it was then.During this time, the ERS staged chapters of Faulkner and Hemingway, as well as plays written by some of its 30-plus members, and featured in Shakespeare’s Measure. I’ve been enjoying the group’s efforts almost since its inception – another voice Colleague James Hannaham is a founding member – I tend to conclude that it does a better job of translating other genres (e.g. novels) than trying great plays from the dramatic classics.

seagullIn Chekhov’s original work, it was already a play about the dramatic genre and contained a lot of rhetoric about art. It begins with a dramatic segment of Konstantin, a member of a younger, more experimental generation. Played by Gavin Price, the son of middle-aged actress Irina (Kate Benson) who takes better care of herself than he does Imagine. Extremely unhappy, he falls madly in love with his neighbor’s daughter, Nina, who dreams of becoming an actress.

A version of ERS is in development during the pandemic, and its prologue is reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s. our city, in which the role of the stage manager sets the story before anything happens.at this seagull, Semyon, a poor school teacher played by Pete Simpson, took a long time to set up the scene. His beloved Martha, the daughter of the property manager of the estate where the play is set, has returned from swimming; in Chekhov’s text, this is only a discussion, but here it is represented in a modern-style beach towel. Martha, played by ERS founding member Susie Sokol (a real school teacher IRL), gets a ton of stage time; after her 30 years on the team, she looks little like when the early ’90s started different, and still compelling.

The prologue was conceived as a post-performance talkback, with a microphone on a long cable passing up and down a row of performers in black folding chairs. Semyon hosts this exercise, which mimics many of the announcements that are now in theaters before night.It was fun on and off and was clearly loved by the many theatre professionals who attended the preview seagull In Skirball, but in the end, it added about 15 minutes, mostly unnecessary minutes, to what was already a long game.

The break between the last two acts is represented by five harrowing minutes of silence, darkness and stillness, during which the actors remain motionless and soft beams of light are projected on them from the sides of the massive stage. Getting audiences to sit through the issue was a big one, especially in the first two hours and two years of production, and turned into an attention-destroying epidemic.

In both Chekhov’s original and this version, women throw themselves at men who abuse or ignore them. Issues of sexism, classism, and industrial relations run through both texts, as do concerns about the mental health of artists. The cosmopolitan novelist Boris, played by Robert M. Johansson, plays funky, narcissistic, sunglasses-wearing throughout, who appears to be the boyfriend of actress Irina, but has a relationship with the much younger Nina. (Nina) flirts, who agrees with the seagull in the title. Nina, played by Maggie Hoffman, presented Boris with a pendant bearing the page and line numbers of one of his articles; he ordered the book to be given to him, and stood up, Facing forward in confusion, she read aloud the message she had coded. His decision to pursue her wreaked expected havoc on his mistress Irina, the older actress, and incidental havoc on the rest of the community.

Act 1 takes around 90 minutes. Acts 2 and 3 are condensed into a slightly shorter second half – confusing, because Chekhov’s third act takes place two years after the second, at a time when life has changed a lot. In the ERS version, the hiatus between the last two acts is represented by five minutes of harrowing silence, darkness, and stillness, during which the actors stand motionless, soft beams of light streaming from the massive stage two. Side shot on them. Getting audiences to sit through the issue was a big one, especially in the first two hours and two years of production, and turned into an attention-destroying epidemic.

Finally, a few lights came on, and a set of tattered curtains floated to the center of the stage, looking like it had been through a fire. A game of cards was played on a table with 10 chairs. Martha of Sokol dances at the table. The youngest members of the extended family, former lover Nina and tormented Constantine, have both disappeared from the party. Two years on, the young playwright and his long-lost love have gained some notoriety, but perhaps their success came too late.

this version of seagull Contains my two theatrical deal breakers: Dialogue is often hard to hear, and a lot of the action takes place in the dark or in remote corners of the stage. Director John Collins has the actors play nearly all of the drama directly to the audience, rather than the other characters in a scene, a dizzying choice that undercuts otherwise good actors and makes it hard to understand Who is angry or in love with whom.

I have to admit that my deepest appreciation for this project is that it prompted me to re-read Chekhov’s original work, an experience that was more moving than the elevator repair service presented. Both dramas have the same ending. Unfortunately, the beginning and the middle are very different. ❖

Elizabeth Zimmer has written about dance, theatre and books Village Voice and other publications since 1983. She conducts writing workshops for students and professionals across the country, studies dance in many forms, and teaches in the MFA Dance program at Hollins University.

Elevator Maintenance Service
NYU Ski Ball
566 LaGuardia Plaza

until 31 July


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