Hilberry Company superb in Anton Chekov’s ‘The Seagull’

Photo by Kelly O’Connor

Photo by Kelly O’Connor

Carollette Phillips (left) plays Nina, and Jason Cabral portrays Konstantin in the Hilberry’s production of Chekov’s “The Seagull.”

By Sue Suchyta
The Hilberry, Wayne State University’s graduate theater company, continues it season with Anton Chekov’s, “The Seagull.” The show will run in rotating repertory through Feb. 11.

Chekov’s work is often depressing, because his plays are about realistic, flawed people who mess up their lives. They are also set in Russia over a century ago. However, the talented Hilberry company makes one forget the history setting. Instead one sees rich and poor, famous and obscure people who make bad choices, hurt those around them, and internalize their decisions for better or worse.

If the playwright wanted us to avoid the same mistakes that vanity and self-delusion allow, the Hilberry company have stunningly accomplished such an aim.

“The Seagull,” the play name, is also a bird killed in the course of the action without thought to consequence, for sport by one of the play’s characters. It is symbolic of how some of the characters treat each other, whether intentionally or not.

The story follows flawed people who are looking at their lives and are making poor choices that will hurt them and those around them – some irreparably. It is more than a morality fable, though. It speaks to us today, and under Dr. James Thomas’ capable direction it is very relevant in today’s climate of economic uncertainty, rapid and false media fame, and the confusion between pop culture and enduring spiritual values.

Samantha L. Rosentrater is superb as Irina Nikolaevna Arkadina, an actress past her prime who is too wrapped up in her own vanity and selfish ambitions to save her son from his depression. Her belittling of him makes the situation worse. John Woodland’s costumes designs bring out the best in Rosentrater.

Jason Cabral, as Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplyov, her son, captures the brooding desperation of his character. In a pre-chemical era without anti-depressants, he points out to others how we must take responsibility for our own lives and emotions, and not wallow at the mercy of others’ insensitivity or emotional carelessness.

Alan Ball as Pytor Nivolaevich Sorin, a retired county attorney, can make any character interesting. He does so with this role by revealing a man who realizes he wasted his youth, and now sees that he should have enjoyed life. Now he’s too ill to do so. Ball delivers a character with whom the audience can relate, one that other companies and actors have overlooked and underplayed.

Carollette Phillips as Nina Mikhaílovna Zaréchnaya, a young girl and the daughter of a wealthy landowner, portrays the naivety of youth to perfection: the belief that fame can be hers if only she believes in it and works hard. She also thinks love is easily won and comes without a price. Her character has not yet faced the evil people in the world who will use up pretty young innocents for their own selfish gratification at the expense of others’ lives.

Christina Flynn as Masha (Márya) Ilyínishna, usually plays dewy, enthusiastic optimists. It is a tribute to her fine acting that she can play a depressed and despondent young woman who is bitter about life so believably.

For tickets, call (313) 577-2972 or go to the Wayne State University Box Office at 4743 Cass Ave. in Detroit. For tickets and more information, go to www.theatre.wayne.edu and www.wsushows.com.