Brandeis Theater Company swoops in with 'The Seagull'

Season to also include 'Cabaret,' '365 Days/365 Plays' and 'A View From the Bridge'

Photo/Mike Lovett

Ryan McKittrick

This isn’t your father’s Chekhov.

The Brandeis Theater Company kicks off its 2013-14 season with a new translation of “The Seagull” that promises to offer a fresh perspective on the 1895 Russian classic.

The play, Anton Chekhov’s first big success, captures what it means to be an artist. The story takes place on a 19th-century estate, where family and friends of actress Madame Arkadina have gathered to watch her son Konstantin’s new play. The next few days, explosive with theatrical ambitions and unrequited love, will dramatically alter the course of all their lives.

Shira Milikowsky, artistic director fellow at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), directs the production, featuring a translation by Brandeis’ Ryan McKittrick, a lecturer in theater arts, and the A.R.T.’s Julia Smeliansky.

“We have our preconceived notions about the play — maybe that it’s very academic or serious,” says Robert Walsh, an associate professor of the practice of theater arts at Brandeis. “That’s the thing I think [the new translation] may turn upside down.”

Although Chekhov wrote the play more than a century ago, the tensions and the drama — and the characters’ mistakes — still resonate today, says McKittrick.

The dialogue is “not so contemporary it sounds like it happened yesterday, but it’s not antiquated,” McKittrick says. “It’s always necessary to have new translations of spoken language. Stage plays can date themselves very quickly.”

McKittrick taught the Brandeis Theater Company’s MFA actors, now in their third and final year, when they were first-year students. As a result, he and Smeliansky were able to write the translation with specific students in mind, and they attended rehearsals to tweak as they went.

“With plays, it’s always different reading them versus speaking or acting them,” says Eddie Shields, MFA’14, who plays Konstantin. “It can get rough in the mouth. You can’t get things out properly. This translation comes out effortlessly.”

Shields says that, in this production, the Brandeis Theater Company “finds the comedy in the tragedy.” Walsh adds the play is not only accessible, it’s also economical, with a lot of storytelling accomplished in just two hours.

“The actors have been growing steadily, and this is going to be a very exciting year to watch their work,” Walsh says. “It’s a chance to catch these guys at the peak of their training and technique.”

Performances of “The Seagull” will be held in the Spingold Theater Center’s Laurie Theater on Oct. 3-5 and Oct. 10-11 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.

As the season continues, the Brandeis Theater Company says willkommen to “Cabaret” on Nov. 21-24. In this much-loved dark musical, a young American writer is drawn to the 1930s decadence of Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub and its outrageous singing star, Sally Bowles. Their unlikely romance is juxtaposed against the rise of Hitler and the courtship of landlady Fraulein Schneider by her Jewish suitor, Herr Schulz. Steven Bogart will direct the production.

On Dec. 5-8, the company performs Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” In 2002, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Parks decided to write a play a day for a year. This production features a selection of the plays, which touch on topics from the everyday to the obscure.

And Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” comes to the Spingold Theater Center on Feb. 6-9. This drama examines family bonds in 1950s Brooklyn. Eddie Carbone is a simple, hard-working man who inherits the duty of raising his niece, Catherine, after his sister's death. Life is smooth and predictable until his wife’s two cousins, illegal immigrants from Italy, move in with the family. As Eddie attempts to protect his niece, he sets into motion a series of events that lead to devastating consequences.

Tickets for all Brandeis Theater Company performances are available for $20 ($15 for the Brandeis community and seniors, $5 for students) at Brandeis Tickets or by calling 781-736-3400.

Categories: Arts

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