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Variety Review


'Seagull' fails to take flight on Broadway

By Elysa Gardner


NEW YORK — If you're a fan of Chekhov's writing and Peter Sarsgaard's acting, you face a serious dilemma this fall.

The announcement that Sarsgaard would play Trigorin in the Broadway transfer of the Royal Court Theatre's acclaimed U.K. revival of The Seagull was intriguing. The actor has stage experience, and the wry intelligence and understated sexiness he has brought to a string of mostly well-received films (Kinsey, Garden State, Shattered Glass) seemed to bode well for this assignment.


Sadly, though, Sarsgaard doesn't rise to the challenges confronting him any more than his complex and crucial character does. It might be an overstatement to say that his curiously awkward, lackluster performance fatally wounds this Seagull (* * ½ out of four), which opened Thursday at the Walter Kerr Theatre, but only a slight one.


No production of this classic can fly unless we believe that Trigorin, the charismatic but ultimately spineless writer who woos two actresses, can handily seduce and devastate both women. But if Sarsgaard conveys his moral and spiritual lassitude, he hasn't the presence to suggest even an amateur lothario. Gesticulating weakly and dutifully stroking the beard he acquired for the role, he suggests a nice-looking nerd auditioning for the school play.


That's a shame, because the other legs in Trigorin's romantic triangle could hardly be sturdier. Leading lady Kristin Scott Thomas, who earned an Olivier Award in the Royal Court's London staging, is a witty, poignant Arkadina, revealing a nervous fragility in the fading thespian who lives with and clings to Trigorin. As the doomed ingénue Nina, who suffers even more for her lover's callousness, fellow West End import Carey Mulligan is equally lovely and moving, at once a fresh-faced foil and a worthy rival to the elegant but vulnerable Arkadina.

Other actors from the British production continue to thrive under Ian Rickson's sensitive direction of the text, briskly adapted by Christopher Hampton. Mackenzie Crook mines the post-adolescent agony of Arkadina's son, Konstantin, a less successful writer who pines for Nina. With his gaunt appearance and haunted eyes, Crook physically embodies the young man's hunger for the affection that Nina and his mother lavish on Trigorin.


Art Malik is crisply winning as Dorn, a sympathetic doctor, and Pearce Quigley is endearing as Medvedenko, the teacher who harbors his own unrequited passion for mordant Masha (a droll Zoe Kazan), who's hopelessly devoted to Konstantin.


This Seagull may not leave audiences feeling as thwarted as its lovelorn characters, but its uneven casting makes for a frustrating experience.



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OCT 2009
19 - Memphis
22 - After Miss Julie
25 - Brighton Beach Memoirs
29 - Finian's Rainbow

NOV 2009
15 - Ragtime
19 - In The Next Room . . .
23 - Fela!

DEC 2009
6 - Race
10 - Broadway Bound
13 - A Little Night Music

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Show Run Time:
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Theatre Information:
Walter Kerr Theater
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