HTML> The Seagull By Anton Checkhov Live Performance Central Park Saturday August 18, 2001.
Make your own free website on

This is the the third installment of a review of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, performed on Saturday August 18, 2001, at The Joseph Papp Public Theater in Central Park, New York, NY

This review is best read in chronoligical order so it is my duty to refer you two the web site where parts one and two can be found.

Click here to read the first part of this now three part review.

Click here to be taken to part two of this now three part review.

If you are looking for the third part of this review, then don't click on anything at all, stay a while.

This installment will attempt to trace some of the important symbolism in the play while maintaining the focus on the characters of Nina (Natalie Portman) and Trigorin (Kevin Kline). The character of Masha (performed by Marcia Gay Harden) will also be discussed.

The character of Masha (Marcia Gay Harden) is important because she introduces the theme of the play and is questioned by the Schoolteacher- Medvedenko (Stephen Spinella), as to why she is wearing black. She answers that she is mourning for her life. Certainly and a strange comment, which should alert the audience, that they are about to see an out of the ordinary production. Masha states that the performance is about to begin, and Medvedenko repeats the word performance, and a fair amount of sarcasm should have been obvious. Then Medvedenko turns the topic into a "compare and contrast" theme regarding, the love between Nina and Konstantin as compared to the love between himself a school teacher and Masha the one who always wears black. One could easily view these very characters as symbols, with the teacher being the one who sheds the light upon Masha who is always dressed in black.

We view Masha, as a dark and gloomy character, and our light-hearted school teacher is attracted to her. By contrast Konstantin, is dark and gloomy, and is attracted to the light and airy Nina. This idea will be re-visited when the big scene with Trigorin and Nina, as well as the performances of Kevin Kline and Natalie Portman (in this scene) finally get reviewed.

Chekhov has creted characters in Medvedenko, and Masha, that are not truly totally developed or fleshed out if you will. These two characters have been assigned parts that are most akin to atmosphere. They introduce important elements in this play, serve as symbols, which we have to think hard to somehow decipher. Then they recede back into the play itself, as a backdrop (a setting if you will) from which we can continue, to view the dramatic conflict continue to unfold.

The sexual metaphors are there. We do not have to look too deep. Konstantin's play mentions fusion of matter and spirit. The interrupted play may contain more meaning, perhaps a reference to some universal fear of death. The play within a play must be stopped somehow, for even Chekhov must have realized the masses would have a very limited attention span for viewing Chekhov's post apocalyptical view of the universe, and its eventual reconstruction. The armchair critics (personified in Medvendenko, and later in Dorn) have a go at a critique of the unfinished play. Then Konstantin conveniently leaves the stage, Masha in pursuit, and enter Trigorin.

The character of Arkadina now in just eight separate lines of dialogue (Stoppard pg 14-15) is able to steer our focus away from her petulant son's insignificant production back to her favorite topic of interest, being sex.

It seems that Chekhov had developed a formula here, to keep his plays in production, Chekhov must have known what todays adverstising concerns constanly capitilize on, sex sells. This way he could introduce his prophetic snippits (via Konstantin and Trigorin), create a character (in Arkadina) who simply can not stand to look too deeply at anything of spiritual significance, and create a dramatic conflict, by pitting these characters against one another, struggling to survive.

The stuggle to survive is a good launch to am entirely new essay. So let me make my point here and now, and make it quick. Seagulls stuggle to survive by continuously competeing with each other for scraps of food. As soon as an individual within the flock finds a scrap and moves towars it, the rest of the flock follows. Therfore in the very act of feeding, the seagull must then prepare for the competition. Getting back to the play, we can now make sense of the lines spoken by Trigorin in Act III when he is speaking with Masha (Stoppard, Trigorin pg 38).

Her son is being awfully difficult.
Not content with trying to shoot himself,
he now wants to challenge me to a duel,...
...He sulks and stamps his foot
and preaches his doctrine of new forms.
but there is plenty of room for all,
there's no need to push and shove.

Suffice it to say, that the work of Charles Darwin was not unknown (The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was first published in 1858) in Chekhov's day. Anton Chekhov, who was also a an MD in addition to being a prolific writer, also knew his life would be short (like a a flower) because he had Tb. Therfore, he must have felt the evolutionary pressure from the flock of great writers of his day if his works were to survive into the next millenium. Chekhov was only fourty-four years old when he died.

The flower, is the another important metaphor, threaded throughout the play. First we have Konstantin pulling a flower apart, "she loves me, she loves me not" in Act I,
Then we have have the character of Dorn, " (hums softly) "Tell her my flowers...' " (Stoppard,Dorn pg 12) singing a little ditty about flowers.
Later in the same scene, we have Nina (Natalie Portman) the young aspiring virgin star, giving up her white posy flower, to Dorn. Which Dorn's lover Polina immediately tears up and throows to the floor. Polina Oh, aren't they pretty, so tiny and delicate...Give me those {flowers}. Give them to me ! (Stoppard, Polina, pg (29).

The flower metaphor was brilliantly woven into the plot.

The flowers spring up once again, in the very long dialogue delivered by Trigorin (Kevin Kline), the accomplished writer, to Nina (Natalie Portman).

Click here to read part one of my review.

Click here to read part two of my review

Also you will find other links to Chekhov's works,a Meryl Streep, and Natalie Portman fan club,as well as other links of interest.

PS The following club needs new members, dramareviewnyc Do you yahoo, dramareview club, click here !