Chekov, Newfoundland-style

Tara Bradbury
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Local adaptation of classic Russian play opens tonight

From left: Kimberley Drake, Rachel Huys, Ross Moore, Wendi Smallwood, Lawrence Barry and Timothy Foss perform a scene from Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” which has been adapted by Open Theatre Company and set in St. John’s.
— Photo by Victoria Wells/Submitted photo

“I am writing a play which I shall probably not finish before the end of November,” wrote famed Russian playwright Anton Chekhov in 1895, about “The Seagull.”

“I am writing it not without pleasure, though I swear fearfully at the conventions of the stage. It’s a comedy, there are three women’s parts, six men’s, four acts, landscapes (views over a lake); a great deal of conversation about literature, little action, tons of love.”

Budding local director Natalia Hennelly, with the help of Open Theatre Company, has adapted “The Seagull” for a modern Newfoundland audience, though Chekov’s original description still holds true.

“It’s set in modern-day Newfoundland using a house around the bay somewhere,” Hennelly explained.

“Instead of 19th-century Russia, it’s modern-day St. John’s, to make it more accessible and easier to do.”

In Hennelly’s version of the play, a popular actress returns to her hometown from Toronto, bringing with her a renowned author.

Her son is a playwright and his girlfriend, Nina, is an aspiring actress who falls in love with the author and leaves the province.

The play follows the son as he struggles to find himself and and make his way in the world.

“It’s a great play about art and artists,” Hennelly said. “I think I picked it because I really related to it a lot, as a young artist trying to make my way.

“It’s just a beautiful play with great parts for people. Chekov was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. He’s a genius. He’s right up there with Shakespeare.”

Starring in “The Seagull” is a cast of 10: Frank Holden, George Robertson, Kimberley Drake, Lawrence Barry, Michael Worthman, Rachel Huys, Ross Moore, Timothy Foss, Victoria Wells-Smith and Wendi Smallwood.

It runs at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre starting tonight, and running until Saturday, at

8 p.m., with an  2 p.m. pay-what-you-can matinee on Saturday.

Tickets are $20 (HST and service charge included) and are available at the Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900, or online at

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Open Theatre Company, Barbara Barrett Theatre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Russia, Toronto

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