Entertainment » Theatre

The Notebook of Trigorin

by Maya Phillips
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday May 9, 2013
Meredith Forlenza (Nina) and Will Sarratt (Constantine)
Meredith Forlenza (Nina) and Will Sarratt (Constantine)  (Source:Julia Noulin-Mérat)

If your would-be lover presents you with a dead seagull as a token of his love, you're probably in for some drama -- not so good for your personal life, but great for the theater. Don't believe me? Just check out the Attic's "The Notebook of Trigorin," and you'll become a believer.

Presented by Anton Chekov via Tennessee Williams via the Attic, "The Notebook of Trigorin" has passed through a couple of different artistic lenses, which seem to have only done the show good. "The Notebook of Trigorin" is Williams' adaptation of Chekov's "The Seagull," which became one of Chekov's four major plays and was one of the plays that helped give birth to modern theater.

Here's the Sparknotes version of what happened: Chekov wrote a play that incorporated the still fresh and spanking-new concept of realism: realistic characters dealing with realistic situations in modern-day times, and Williams took it and added his own personal flair. A play of subtlety, artfulness and tragically real characters, of course it was just up Williams' alley.

"The Notebook of Trigorin," while not a play of action, is a play of characters and their relationships with each other. There are more tales of sorrow and unrequited love told here than in a bathroom at a middle school dance: Semyon loves Masha, who loves Constantine, who loves Nina, who loves Boris Trigorin, who loves...well, writing, and his sense of freedom and personal pleasure.

As the play opens, Constantine is preparing for the premiere of his latest work of art, his play written in a new form. Constantine presents the show in front of a small audience of his friends and family, but his mother, the larger-than-life Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina, mocks his play, wrought with dense themes and symbolism. Irina, a self-absorbed actress with little tact, derides her son's effort and tells him to search elsewhere for a new profession.

Irina herself travels to and fro performing shows and has as her escort the much younger, much more charming celebrated writer, Trigorin. In a classic romantic twist of fate, Constantine's friend Nina, with whom he is desperately in love, rejects his romantic advances and instead, immediately falls for the mysterious Trigorin. Constantine falls into a depression, and, ever the symbolist, presents Nina with a seagull he shot, which proves to be as portentous of a sign as it seems.

Meanwhile, Constantine's uncle and Irina's brother, Pyotr, tries to manage his estate and his failing health. Masha, the daughter of the estate's steward, wears only black and pines for Constantine while trying to steer clear from the romantic declarations of poor schoolteacher Semyon.

As Irina, Charise Greene is blunt, animated and over-the-top, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her.

While the action of the play is mostly constrained to these conflicts and relationships, it is not lacking for drama or depth. "The Notebook of Trigorin" is a play of characters, of lives. You get a sense that these two hours only give you a peek into the characters' lives. Beyond the simplicity of clear-cut protagonists and antagonists, this play indulges in characters with their own histories, personalities, perspectives and opinions.

Even though these characters are brilliantly and realistically written, the Attic's cast somehow manages to bring even more life to the already three-dimensional characters. As Irina, Charise Greene is blunt, animated and over-the-top, and it's impossible to take one's eyes off her.

Meredith Forlenza as Nina is over-eager, naive, innocent and ready to be broken. Michael Schantz as Trigorin is seductively charming, pensive, enigmatic and ultimately poisonous. And Will Sarratt as Constantine is as lonely and tragic as a seagull shot out of the sky.

But the play doesn't just leave all its meaning at the feet of its characters; quite the contrary, beyond its focus on the yearning and heartbreak of its characters, the play is also thematically dense, asking questions about the meaning and function of art.

Trigorin, an established yet tormented-writer; Constantine, an aspiring writer of a new form; Irina, an established actress; and Nina, an aspiring actress, all represent different views, and the dialogue freely explores them. Nothing if not self-aware, the play brings up the question of what it means to make art and to be an artist, a question that Chekov and perhaps Williams asked themselves in the writing of their respective plays.

A play of characters, of heartbreak, of art and of questions, "The Notebook of Trigorin" is a smart, sophisticated show with a purpose-just what theater should be.

"The Notebook of Trigorin" runs through May 18 at the Flea Theater, 41 White St. For more information or tickets, call 212-226-0051 or visit www.theattictheaterco.com.


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