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There's a certain irony that, after a month where practically every show I saw started late, the one that I was running a bit behind to get to was the one that started early. So, even though I walked into the Baroque Room a few minutes before the announced start time of 7:30 p.m., Gonzo Group Theatre's ...a seagull
was already in progress. (The clock issue that caused this has been fixed.)
As the experimental piece is played with house lights up and the seats are scattered amid a quartet of playing areas -- we were encouraged to get up and move for better views, but being good Minnesotans, no one did -- it took a few minutes to get settled and catch up with the action.
It was a bit like catching an unfamiliar movie midstream on TV. Character introductions have been missed and the pared-down production (about 70 minutes) meant the action was moving along in a brisk, decidedly not Chekhov fashion.
Still, once I got caught up, there were pleasures to be found in the Gonzo Group's interpretation. The company used cult-classic television show Arrested Development as a model for the characters and while it didn't always work, the modern touches certainly fit in well with Chekhov's original story.
The best of the analogues was Luke Weber's Constantine, the tortured soul at the center of the plot. Recast in the mold of Buster, his strange, aloof, and confused manner made more sense, while his close relationship with his mother, Irina (a solid Megan Dowd), earned some extra layers.
Other times, it was more of a case of "who could this character be?" It mainly proved to be a minor distraction, as the story and the characters eventually took over. The modern setting of the play certainly works, as the kind of ennui that haunts the story certainly is part of modern-day life (whether or not there's a violent revolution two decades in our future is yet to be seen).
The actual staging, guided by director Jennifer Harrigton, also worked for the piece. The action shifted from spot to spot, but characters could be left behind or move ahead or, in the case of Constantine, wander aimlessly from spot to spot. It certainly broke down the barriers, as you felt like a guest wandering through the house, catching conversations, arguments, and confessions that seemed to have been long in development -- and probably would continue long after we left the characters to their own devices.
IF YOU GO:
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday
The Baroque Room
275 E. Fourth St., St. Paul
For information, call 651.330.2404 or visit online
275 E. 4th St., St. Paul, MN