By Stephen C. Sanders firstname.lastname@example.org, yes you can e-mail me if you like, you will see email@example.com pop into your mail to window, verizon will no longer allow their bandwidth to be used to send mail to free mail servers like yahoo !.)This a part two of a two part review. The original review can be found at the following web site. http://tiger_bythe_toe.tripod.com At this site you will find links to both Meryl Streep, and Natalie Portman fan clubs as well as links to other works by Anton Chekhov including The Seagull.
The character of Dorn as played by Larry Pine came off in this performance as a good straight man, versus the character of Sorin (Christopher Walken) who seemed to get the lion’s share of laughs. The character Sorin (Konstantin’s uncle, retired government offficial and owner of the estate, as well as Arkadina’s brother) as played by Christopher Walken was never upstaged. This character was given (born with, endowed by his creator A. Chekhov, if you will) the most fully fleshed out and believable attributes. Christopher Walken played the character with an easy grace and his delivery of Chekhov’s immortal lines provided some much needed humor. Without this character, it is doubtful that this play would still be produced and enjoyed in the 21 st. century. Even with his back to the audience Christopher Walken filled to theater with laughter when he interupted the young plywright’s (Konstantin’s) introduction of the play with his delivery of the lines " Two hundred thousand years from now there’ll be nothing." (Tom Stoppard, Sorin pg. 11)
Perhaps Trigorin's self indulgent poor me the writer diaogue:
After all this analysis, I believe that Chekhov in his lifetime must have felt compelled to develop his own style. After all he had to compete with so many great writers who were already held in such high esteem, and yes adored by the public. The reviews that he may have read in his day, must of driven him to near madness. Yet to always be compared, to to other writers and to be found lacking, must have caused at least a fair amount of dissonance within his writing, and perhaps within his very soul. As for the character of Nina (Natalie Portman), here we hava an un-educated youth, throw herself at him simply due to his fame. We can imagine that Nina represents the masses. Flocking towards what they feel is good because it is what all the other people like. Aha, yes...hence the title of the play, The Seagull. Would Anton Chekhov the soulful writer be satisfied with only that ? To be viewed as an accomplished writer only because others said and thought he was good.
The flock-like behaviour of the people, the masses, Nina-
Towards the end of act Two Anton Chekhov has provided his characters with some excellent possibilities for dramatic interaction. Konstantin has just layed the dead seagull at Nina’s feet. Konstantin indulges in self deprecation . Beating himself up in front of his would be lover, Nina. Natalie Portman played this scene with an a convincing innocense. Rahter than being taken aback and horrified by the dead seagull, and the dark cynical self depracating lines of Konstantin, she is indulgent, trying to give Konstantin the gifted writer a chance to come down from his loftly soulful artist soapbox, back down to earth, where us mortals dwell.
Rather than taking Nina’s cue to humble and explain himself, Konstantin continues with his sardonic misunderstood, an un-appreciated artist theme. As the audience views this scene, how can we blame Nina (Natalie Portman) who is doing everything she can to try to reach Konstantin the person, whom she likes, as opposed to Konstantin the deep,creative,soulful,artist,the writer.
The character of Nina is as created Chekhov is too superficial, to really understand that Konstantin is going through deep misery due to the failure of his play. However, this scence must be calling for Konstantin to be showing his undying love and pleading for Nina's sympathy. To play this character properly must be extremely difficult because the lines reveal a self absorbed deeply disturbed person. However that very same peson is also in the presence of his beloved. Therfore his every motioin and gesture must be directed and focused upon her, Nina (Natalie Portman). Unfortunately, the lines as they were delivered and the stage presence of Konstantin ( Philip Seymour Hoffman) did not convey this important conflict.
Natalie Portman held up her end of the character's relationship. She was not looking at the ground, her feet or the dead seagull. Her focus was upon him, the dejected gloomy, moody depressed, yes and suicidal person who was once at least her friend.
Every character must bring their motivation with them, up there on the stage ! The character's motivation is not lying in some ink splattered on a page. It is clearly up to the actors to bring the play to life. How to show this onstage ? Nobody ever said acting is easy, that is why the character of Konstantin is so difficult to play. One could only hope, that the actors, and directors could somehow improve this scene, so that we could understand the message that the author (Amnton Chekhov) was trying to convey.
The paly is about to have Konstantin’s rival Trigorin walk on stage. This is an important beat in Anton Chekhov’s play. As I remember its on-stage delivery, and read the play I woder if it could have been staged better. The stage direction (Tom Stoppard pg 30) has Konstantin see Trigorin as he walks on stage reading a book. However,as Sanders just convincingly stated above, Konstantins every gesture and attention should remain upon Nina (Natalie Portman).
Well, how about having Nina ever so slighly perk up, yes a maybe straighten her dress a bit (and Portman can easily do this) as soon as Trigorin's presence becomes known on the stage. Then maybe we can understand some of the folowing lines spoken by Konstantin to Nina as written by Anotn Chekhov: (Tom Stoppard, Konstantin, pg 30)
Then in this pose, we could see Konstantin read the simple distraction shown by Nina's body langauge and slight shift in posture.
While Natalie Portman (Nina) like a leaf turning towards the sun, an ever so slight tropism towards her idol as she senses and then sees his presence. All the while still doing the best that her character Nina (as created by Chekhov with her average acting talents) can do, to feign her total attention on this despondent, and yes pathetic would be lover.
Then and only then might we have a chance of understanding the immortal words of Anton Chekhov, when Konstantin, would pause, turn away from Nina, and see Trigorin and begin standing up and withdrawing form Nina, (Natalie Portman) who by now would barely be paying any attention to him. The Audience would then hear the following lines, and understand them.
How about this link to complete script of The Seagull.
This link will take you to the latest page in this trilogy.