Canadian Stage with Crow’s Theatre bring the Anton Chekhov classic to life in Toronto
Opening night, a cold Toronto winter night. The stage is bare, the air is smokey, there’s the sound of crickets chirping in the distance. For the next three hours, the audience was pulled into the 1895 world of Anton Chekhov: hurting with the hurt while digging deeply into love, life and the meaning of art.
This wasn’t my first Seagull. I saw it years ago at The Stratford Festival. I’m an ardent fan of the National Ballet of Canada version where the story is told without words. But on this night, it was a pleasure to experience the drama in a translation attuned to the 21st-Century ear. Including, and especially, Bahia Watson (she of Pomme Is French for Apple fame) interjecting a casual “fuck-you” into a story set in the countryside, far from Moscow, 135 years ago. It could have been today.
Watson’s Masha, bored while sporting John Lennon glasses, was a highlight. But all the actors – true to what I’d seen in the trailer – brought the classic story to life in a very contemporary way.
Eric Peterson’s Sorin was more endearing than usual and hilarious. Tom McCamus’ Dorn kept us on our toes with his booming voice and large presence. Many have commented on how The Seagull is both tragedy and comedy. This production delivered a healthy dose of both.
The Berkeley Street Theatre was perfectly used for this production. We the audience walked across the old floorboards of Russia to make our way to our seats. We became part of the story. The cluster of seats in the far corner was like the chorus for a Greek drama.
The cricket chirps heard in the beginning gave way to dogs barking and other far-off sounds. There was always something in the distance. Always this feeling that we were part of a small event in the bigger universe.
So when Konstantin opened the back door to the sound of the howling wind, I was suddenly reminded that it was January in Toronto and a truly frigid night. I had forgotten.
“The lighting, the set – everything was authentically Russian,” said my theatre guest. And then she took it one further: “It made me think about the ruble losing its value and how Russia is experiencing hard times again.”
Full circle, the play is also deeply personal. The search for love, the ache of the indifferent mother. We’ve all been there – it’s what makes The Seagull so real and ageless.
- The Seagull is playing at the Canadian Stage Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street from Jan 11 to Feb 8.
- Performances run Tuesday to Sunday at 8 pm (7 pm on Fridays) with 1 pm weekend matinees.
- Tickets range from $22 to $49 can be purchased online, by phone 416-368-3110, or in person at the box office.
Photo of the company by Paul Lampert.