By RANDAL C. HILL
“It is life itself onstage, with all its tragic alliances, eloquent thoughtlessness
and silent sufferings.”
So lauded Russian theater critic Anatoly Koni in an 1896 note to playwright Anton Chekhov after Koni had seen the stage presentation of Chekhov’s new drama called The Seagull. In contrast to the popular melodramatic approach of the day, Chekhov’s groundbreaking dialogue approach featured his onstage characters delivering lines that tended to skirt around the issues being discussed rather than addressing them directly.
Sony Pictures Classics’ 2018 version of The Seagull offers Chekhov’s iconic drama for today’s audience, who will experience a classic-in-the-making movie that
tells a heartbreaking yet often amusing tale of friends and lovers, all of whom fall in love with the wrong people. The focus is often on the character flaw of narcissism and its ultimate impact on young dreams and romantic love.
The story may be 122 years old now, but it is as contemporary as any modern soap opera. The May 11th release—which is already drawing early Oscar buzz—has Sony almost breathlessly enthusing: “Here finally is the definitive film version
of the master storyteller’s play. It is fun and the cast is simply sublime.”
The top-notch ensemble plays a unique and often-quirky set of characters in Chekhov’s iconic work. In the story, aging actress Irina (four-time Academy Award-nominated Annette Bening) pays a summer visit to her brother’s secluded lakeside estate, where she encounters her long-estranged son Konstantin (UK-born
Prada model Billy Howle), as well as his adoring lady friend Masha (Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss). The fun begins in earnest when a famous novelist named Boris (Netflix’s House of Cards’ Corey Stoll) arrives on the scene at Irina’s invitation and meets striking ingenue Nina (three-time Oscar nominated Irish star Saorise Ronan), a free-spirited but vulnerable beauty from a neighboring estate.
The Seagull has seen countless stage adaptations over the years, including operas and ballets, as well as a 1968 film adaptation by director Sidney Lumet.
Fresh from Broadway, Seagull director Michael Mayer says, “Chekhov didn’t live to see cinema emerge as an important art form. He would never know how
significantly his contribution to writing and acting would be. I’d like to think that he would appreciate our intent on to capture forever, in Koni’s words, ‘the sort
of everyday life that is accessible to everyone and understood in its cruel internal irony by almost no one.’”