The tree-lined horizon of Central Park made for a perfect setting for The Public Theater's new, starry revival of Chekhov's The Seagull, his tragicomic play set on the edge of a lake in summertime.
That horizon grows dim Aug. 26 with the final performance of the extended run at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre. Director Mike Nichols' cast, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marcia Gay Harden, John Goodman and Natalie Portman, made the 1896 play one of the hottest tickets in New York theatre history. Theatregoers desperate for a pair of the free passes have slept overnight on the edge of the park, or on the sidewalk at The Public's home base downtown to snag tickets. There were also reports that people were paying students to wait in line to procure tickets.
Independent producers were continuing to explore the possibility of a limited commercial run of the show beginning in November, but Playbill On-Line learned over the weekend that the company was told Aug. 24 that a move to Broadway would not happen. This dashes the dreams of many who hoped they could witness up-close a clutch of the most famous and celebrated actors of our time.
Skeptics have said the cost of the large-cast mounting would not be economically feasible for a short run (eight weeks were projected), and that ticket prices might have been sky-high to allow for the producers to recover some money. A spokesperson for The Public Theater told Playbill On-Line Aug. 23 that availability of the company was still being explored at that time and a future production was in the mulling stage. Few question that a Broadway move of the production would have sold like blinis.
* The Lyceum Theatre was one of the venues mentioned for the transfer. Some observers had said getting the high-profile cast to agree on a schedule, considering other bookings or personal commitments, would be miraculous.
Playbill On-Line reported Aug. 9 that although a fall Broadway run was being examined, some of the cast, such as Debra Monk, who is booked for Broadway's Thou Shalt Not in October, would not be free to wing along with The Seagull.
The company of The Seagull includes Morena Baccarin, Vitali Baganov, Craig Bockhorn, Mark H. Dold, Henry Gummer, Larry Pine and Stephen Spinella. Reviews that appeared following the opening Aug. 12 were mixed, with critics praising Streep but questioning the ensemble and the varying acting styles. The play marks Academy Award-winner Streep's return to the stage after a 20-year absence.
The translation used by Nichols and company is by Tom Stoppard (although an adaptation by Richard Nelson was first announced). The Seagull (1896) is Russian master Chekhov's rueful domestic comedy about the life and loves of an extended theatrical family, led by Arkadina, a famous and respected actress. Her experimental-playwright son, Konstantin Treplev (Hoffman), loves the young actress Nina (Portman), who runs off with Arkadina's lover, Trigorin (Kline).
Designers are Bob Crowley (scenic and costume design), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and Acme Sound Partners (sound), with Mark Bennett penning original music. Performances began July 24. The official opening Aug. 12, was cancelled about an hour into the performance due to rain and lightning.
— By Kenneth Jones