Amaz­ing cast saves Seag­ull adap­ta­tion

Tweed Daily News - - PULSE ENTERTAINER - Wenlei Ma

IF IT weren’t for its im­pres­sive cast and per­for­mances, The Seag­ull would be a de­cent but largely for­get­table cos­tume dram­edy.

This adap­ta­tion of An­ton Chekhov’s so­cial satire, di­rected by Michael Mayer, is a pleas­ing lit­tle movie set by a pho­to­genic sum­mer­house by a lake. But it never quite makes the leap from stage to screen.

Theatre is no­to­ri­ously hard to adapt for the screen and Chekhov even more so when so much of his work is about sub­text.

Mayer does an ad­mirable job in build­ing up ten­sion, mov­ing the ac­tion around to dif­fer­ent parts of the es­tate and cross-cut­ting be­tween sets of char­ac­ters.

Re­ally though, it’s the per­for­mances that make it work or, at least, make it a di­vert­ing cou­ple of hours on a Sun­day af­ter­noon.

An­nette Ben­ing is re­splen­dent, equal parts melo­drama, ego, fragility and cal­lous cru­elty as the fad­ing theatre star Irina – in Ben­ing’s hands, a char­ac­ter as ven­omous as Irina is made hu­man and vul­ner­a­ble.

Most of the ac­tion is set on a coun­try es­tate, which Irina is vis­it­ing with her younger lover Trig­orin (Corey Stoll), a famed short story writer.

Her son Kon­stan­tine (Billy Howle) is an as­pir­ing play­wright but he pens pre­ten­tious sym­bol­ist works that are di­rect pot shots at the con­ven­tional dra­mas that made his mother fa­mous.

Kon­stan­tine’s play stars his girl­friend and wannabe

ac­tor Nina (Saoirse Ro­nan), starstruck by Trig­orin, who will end up pur­su­ing the doe-eyed in­genue.

Also present dur­ing this week­end of emo­tional fire­works is the es­tate keeper Sham­rayev (Glenn Fleis­cher), his wife Polina (Mare Win­ning­ham), their daugh­ter, the vodka-swill­ing Masha (Elis­a­beth Moss), Irina’s brother Sorin (Brian Den­nehy), teacher Mikhail (Michael Ze­gan) and Dr Dorn (Jon Ten­ney).

It’s a mov­ing board of un­re­quited love. Mikhail yearns for the morose Masha who longs af­ter Kon­stan­tine, who’s madly in love, in the way that only sen­si­tive young men of a cer­tain age in lit­er­a­ture can be, with Nina, who in turn is en­tranced by Trig­orin, who’s sup­posed to in a re­la­tion­ship with Irina.

Then there’s Polina, mar­ried to Sham­rayev but has a past with Dr Dorn. Ev­ery­one wants some­one they can’t have. It’s a pow­der keg threat­en­ing to blow.

Chekhov’s char­ac­ters, these souls with ideas about ro­mance, art and life, are made alive with the in­cred­i­ble tal­ent gath­ered within this ensem­ble cast, but es­pe­cially Ben­ing, Stoll and Moss.

Be­cause oth­er­wise, this just an­other stilted cos­tume piece. As al­ways, thank god for An­nette Ben­ing.

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