The tragically tragic, tragic comedy

26 03 2007

This weekend I went home to see the Goshen spring mainstage, “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov.  The play was well put together.  The staging, acting, set, and costumes all very well done. But I hated it.  I could blame this on the playwright.  Nothing happens on stage, the play is almost literally all talk.  None of the characters really seem to grow.  I didn’t really care about any of them. There is no happy ending, or lesson to learn.  The whole thing is thoroughly depressing.  The play ends when one of the main characters (my boyfriend) kills himself.  I admit that I probably wouldn’t like this play as much as other types of theater regardless, but I blame my poor theater experience entirely on the audience.

Unfortunately, the audience was small that evening due to a competing Lavender Jazz concert.  A small audience always tends to lack in response, but the bigger problem was that they just didn’t get it.  They tried too hard to care about the characters.  They didn’t see that the character’s lives were so tragic that is was funny.  That when a grown man sulks and whines to his diva mother it is pitifully humorous.  I wanted to laugh and snort and enjoy the irony, but no one else was laughing, or if they were they, like me, were doing it silently.  I don’t think many theater goers understand to what extent they are part of the production.  The audience is probably the element that most effects how a show will play out night to night.  This probably isn’t the case so much in large professional productions, but in small theaters, the audience as a whole gives energy to the cast and affects how each individual audience member receives and responds to the play.  At least that’s my experience.  The audience as a unit is a living, breathing element of the play just as the set and actors themselves are.  You can almost tangibly feel the mood of the audience, and that feeds your own perceptions of what’s occurring on stage.  I wasn’t allowed to laugh at the characters, but was swept into trying to care about them along with the rest of the audience.  So I hated it, because I found I couldn’t truly care and still wanted to laugh and that made me feel heartless.  No one likes to feel heartless.

So, I want to see it again, with a better audience this time.

wikipedia has some good stuff to say about Chekhov’s writing and why it’s hard to like.  check it out.

It was also the first time that I had seen Mike in a full length production or in a significant role.  I was very impressed!  I’m dating an actor (happy sigh).




6 responses

27 03 2007
bindi nestor

Very interesting reflections. Hard to interpret silence. Maybe they were all feeling like you and were all dying to laugh? Tragic if they were!

I went to a play on Friday night as well, All My Sons by Arthur Miller. A friend and i have subscribed to the Melbourne Theatre Company and have seven plays booked for the year. This one was excellent and very well acted. I didn’t notice the “audience effect”, on Friday night, perhaps because it was a big production and a full house, but I know what you mean. However, the audience only usually effects me when I’m a bit bored anyway. If the play or movie is riveting I forget where I am.

Is your boyfriend from Goshen?

27 03 2007
bindi nestor

PS Love the title of this post!

27 03 2007

I understand it’s funnier in the original Russian.

27 03 2007

p.s. yes, I totally stole that from somewhere. But really. Those Russians.

28 03 2007

Phoenix! It’s a pleasure to see your beautiful name on my blog 🙂 I thought about that possibility. Translations are always tricky, and tend to compromise the quality of a piece to some degree.

Bindi glad you like the title 🙂 I thought it might be a little silly, but I liked it anyway. Mike is from Goshen. He actually grew up there as well as attending the college. He’s a junior theater/ communication double major.

1 04 2007

i saw “The seagull” last night, and i got it – the characters are supposed to be pathetic, but it still left me with a feeling of “eh.” i wasn’t a fan of some of the acting/direction.

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