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Theatre Review: Silence is golden in ‘The Seagull’

Paul Ewan Wilson as Trigorin and Rhona Buchan as Irina. — Django Malone photo
Paul Ewan Wilson as Trigorin and Rhona Buchan as Irina. — Django Malone photo - Contributed

Lead actors’ chemistry results in captivating performances at Perchance Theatre in Cupids

Written by Anton Chekhov and adapted by David French, “The Seagull” is a beautiful, sometimes funny, often painful exploration of love, aging and things left unsaid.   

Guest director Thomas Moschopoulos visited from Greece this year to direct “The Seagull.” Moschopoulos was an artistic director at the 2004 Athens Olympics and brings decades of experience and award-winning creative energy to Perchance.

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Set in a lakeside town and filled with rich characters bound to the world of literature and theatre, “The Seagull” lends itself brilliantly to the open-air stage in Cupids. Given Newfoundland’s isolation as an island, it is easy for viewers to imagine that we are all in this lakeside estate together, dwarfed by the vast power of the fields and water just outside. It is part of Moschopoulos’ magic that he is able to fuse the audience and players; we are in this world and no one dares leave it for fear of the danger lurking beyond. It is safe inside this estate … or at least it is until the end of the play.

This play addresses people’s struggles with the realities of aging and truth. Rhona Buchan is spectacular as Irina, an aging actress who longs for youth, glamour, and attention and who refuses to age gracefully, denying the passage of time with passionate commitment that would be better spent honing her craft or helping her depressed son, Kostya (Andrew Tremblett). The play program states that Buchan has been away from the stage for 17 years, which is an indication of her talent. She is entirely convincing and excruciating as she clings desperately to her past identity. Paul Wilson as the successful author, Trigorin, is the best I’ve seen him. He plays the writer as a privileged man consumed by and obsessed with his own talent. He turns from humble to pretentious depending on his company, and is easily swayed by Irina’s charm. His love for Nina (Erin Mackey) seems sincere, though he later reveals himself as capricious and cowardly. Rhona and Paul have a captivating chemistry and are perfectly matched to play Irina and Trigorin.

Moschopoulos uses silence to convey the pain caused by years of ignoring truths. The first 10 minutes of the play is silent as Yakov (Zac Cross) patiently and carefully moves about two dozen chairs from the stage to the ground, one by one. Masha (Allison Moira Kelly) looks on, rolling her eyes and sighing. It is incredibly uncomfortable. As the play moves on, the characters are speechless and gaping when unable or unwilling to acknowledge the pain they are causing or mistakes they have made. The discomfort in the theatre is only heightened by those characters who are rarely silent — Peter (Greg Malone), Ilya (Michael Nolan), Polina (Alexis Koetting) — but who are rendered so by the others in their adamant refusal to confront the truths in front of them — aging, rejection, love, failure — and who invite disaster as a result. The quiet that blankets the theatre at the play’s end is so encompassing that the audience applause feels a part of the performance itself and is the only release from the grip of this lakeside town.

“The Seagull” continues at Perchance Theatre at Cupids until Aug. 26. For more information, visit www.perchancetheatre.com or phone 1-709-771-2930.

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