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I recommend Theatre UCSB’s current production of Anton Chekov’s “The Seagull” for two types of people: those who enjoy Chekhov and those who enjoy daytime soap operas played on prime time.
Set in Russia at a country house, “The Seagull” begins with an aging actress Irina Arkadina (Julia Katherine Oscher), and her son Konstantin Treplev (Gary David), an aspiring writer. Irina is in love with Boris Trigorin (Jesse Gustafson), an established writer of whom Konstantin is jealous. Konstantin is in love with Nina (Aisha Camille Kabia), the girl next door and aspiring actress. To complicate things further, Masha (Caitlin Ferrera), the daughter of Irina’s servant, is in love with Konstantin.
True to the nature of Russian literature and theater, the plot thickens. Nina used to love Konstantin until she met and fell in love with Boris. Nina runs away to Moscow to join Boris, who begins an affair with Nina while retaining the relationship he has with Irina. Masha marries a schoolteacher just so she can get married, but hangs around Konstantin all day so she can be close to him. After a few broken hearts and two babies, everyone ends up at the country house, and “The Seagull” closes with a suicide.
If the outlined plot is any indication, the student actors at Theatre UCSB have an extremely challenging play to work with. A work such as “The Seagull” demands a great deal of experience from its actors. Sadly, such a play, while hugely important in the theatrical growth of student actors, often illuminates the lack of experience student actors may have. However, while some performances were disappointing due to a sheer lack of experience evidenced in either unclear character motivations or overacting, strong performances from members of Theatre UCSB were certainly present. I was particularly impressed by the performances of Doctor Dorn (Rashad El-Amin), Ferrera and the impeccable Ilya Shamrayev (Marc E. Shaw).
For better or worse, Theatre UCSB has taken on producing a very complex, intricate play. While it doesn’t succeed at everything it attempts, the attempt is indeed valiant and commendable.
“The Seagull” performs through Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Performing Arts Theatre. $12 students, $16 general. For more information, call 893-3535.