Orson Welles staged a voodoo Macbeth and a fascist Italian Caesar in the 1930s. Now, Shakespeare's plays are set in Victorian garb, the Wild west, outer space ... Marco Bellochio's TV movie of Chekhov's The Seagull seems to subtly shift locale to Italy, and Andre Gregory's modern dress show for Louis Malle's camera fulfills its title: Vanya on 42nd Street.
Now the Shotgun Player are staging Emily Mann's adaptation, A Seagull in the Hamptons,at Ashby Stage.
On Robert Broadfoot's excellent beachfront set, where the young folk have pitched their flimsy stage, the first act is most successful at translating Chekhov's comedy of languor into a New York weekend in the country, and Richard Louis James as the doting but disappointed big city lawyer uncle is greatly responsible for setting and maintaining the tone, in a funny and touching performance. As his sister, prickly middle-aged stage diva playing younger-than-thou, Trish Mulholland makes her presence felt. Beth Deitchman, better known in North Bay theater for more substantial roles, is very good as the caretaker's wife, carrying on with the world-weary doctor, played well by John Mercer, who's played a trio of Chekhov's fellow physicians in the past year or two.
Things get a bit thicker after intermission, with the increasingly serious stuff in the later two acts, exactly what Chekhov found humorous, though it's seldom played as such. The performers flag a little and become paler than they were at first. Director Reid Davis and his cast turn in a decent effort, but this adaptation is just a bit more stageworthy than the bulk of lugubrious versions that melodramatize Chekhov. (For the record, Paul Schmidt's translations seem to come closest for the difficult "poetry" of the original, which the great V.S. Meyerhold, who originated several of Chekhov's characters onstage and grew close to the author, said was in the rhythm.)
Ashby Stage, Ashby at MLK. 841-6500 or www.shotgunplayers.org