By Kenneth Jones
13 Aug 2012
The 1896 Russian classic about Madame Arkadina, her playwright son Konstantin, the vulnerable actress Nina and others is now shown "through the lens of the roaring American 1920s" in a take that "attempts to break open and examine our inescapable battle to compare ourselves and our work, and the powerful effects of unfulfilled desire," according Wandering Bark notes.
Christopher Diercksen directs. The cast includes Bob C. Armstrong, Michael Bartoli, Jacob Green, Peter Herrick, Jonathan Holtzman, Carol Jacobanis, Kathleen Marsh, Joseph Mitchell Parks, Valerie Redd, Samantha Fairfield Walsh and Curry Whitmire.
The Equity-affiliated company will play The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St. in Long Island City, NY, across the East River from Manhattan.
The creative team includes video designer Stephen Bowlby, lighting designer Alana Jacoby, scenic designer Jacquelyn D. Marolt, costume designer Kirsten Singer and sound designer Mark Van Hare. Production stage manager is Yvonne Hartung.
Wandering Bark's co-artistic director Valerie Redd told Playbill.com, "What really drew us to this new translation is the ease of the language....it's so readable. It lends itself to a more comfortable delivery, making it more accessible to the audience than other translations, allowing the humor of the piece to shine through while maintaining the beauty, complexity, and imagery of the original.
"The choice of using the filter of the American 1920s is a way of building a bridge between our audience and this material. When we encounter '20s images and music we find them haunting, familiar, yet distant. There is a sense of nostalgia about it which provides a nice parallel experience for our audience and the characters in the play, who have an almost tangible longing for the past.
"We associate that time with a bustling, electric energy — a time of rapid change, bold art, and seemingly endless possibilities, which provides a fascinating foil for these struggling and dissatisfied characters, surrounding them with a world that seems to be freer than ever before while they, for various reasons, feel trapped."
She added, "The emergence of moving pictures has a huge influence on Konstantin's ideas about new forms of theatre, Arkadina's steadfastness in the tradition of theatre as she knows it becomes even more poignant in the face of the introduction of film, and Nina's opinions of celebrity can now expand to a global level with the advent of the international film star."
Under the leadership of artistic directors Parks and Redd (who appear in The Seagull), Wandering Bark Theatre Company launched its inaugural season in fall 2011 with their reinvention of Othello depicting returning U.S. Afghanistan veterans.