Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park presents a case study of a dysfunctional family from a time before anyone knew the term for it, in Anton Chekhov’s 1896 drama, “The Seagull.”
Now at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage, the production is directed by D. Lance Marsh and performed in handsome period costumes by Robert Pittenridge. It runs three hours, but even in triple-digit weather, it’s a chance to view the kind of well-acted, effectively staged classic you don’t see every day.
Chekhov sets “Seagull” on the estate of Sorin (Doug Brown), an upper-middle-class Russian bureaucrat, where his fading-actress sister, Arkadina (Kathryn McGill); her writer “friend,” Trigorin (Rick Nelson); and others are visiting.
Among the others are Arkadina’s son, Konstantin, also known in this translation as Treplev (Jacob Ockwood), and his inamorata, Nina (C. Jaye Miller). The way the characters sit around in complaining self-absorption, you’d think it’s a Woody Allen picture.
Chekhov gradually reveals various relationships, the central one being between Arkadina and Konstantin. Now that Konstantin, who’s 25, has reached manhood, he reminds the aging Arkadina of her decline as an actress. Their relationship is further complicated because he aspires to be a writer, but abhors middlebrow show business where his mother has spent her career. Although they are literally at each others’ throats, their maternal and filial love keeps them in a tenuous peace and burdens them with guilt.
“The Seagull” is written in four acts, staged here with an intermission, and the last act is set two years after the first three. It would clarify the action if the setting and time were specified in the program.
Credible acting marks OSP’s production. McGill and Ockwood have a volatile chemistry, and the scene where Konstantin asks Arkadina to change his bandage after he “accidentally” shot himself raises the energy level and sets the stage for the play’s conclusion.
Nelson and Brown perform to their usual high level, and Kristyn Chalker is appealing as the disturbed Masha. The reliable Hal Kohlman is excellent as Shamrayev. Mandee Chapman-Roach (Paulina) and Kevin Keeling (Medvedenko) are fine, as is Tim Fall, who, as Dorn, delivers the play’s shattering last line.
OSP is still resettling into the renovated Water Stage after spending last summer at another location.
Because the Water Stage is across the street from the Devon tower construction site, the actors need a little amplification (except Kohlman, who he came up in a time when actors were taught to project). The production still uses “shotgun” microphones, but the sound system has been tweaked since last month’s “Merry Wives of Windsor,” and isn’t bad.
As much as I loathe saying so, it would be interesting to see a production done with the actors wearing body microphones.