Special to The Dagger
Since setting up shop in 2011 on a shoestring and a prayer, Boom Theater has never been short of ambition. The company, now in its second season, made an ambitious play for audience last weekend when it opened Anton Chekov’s The Seagull at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Churchville.
Chekov’s play, a drawing-room tragedy about a group of actors, writers, and other intellectuals taking a break at a lake house, bristles with all the frustrations of the artistic temperament. The characters denounce, declaim, and threaten to decamp, yet somehow find themselves again in each other’s company at the curtain’s fall. This may not jump out as the first choice for an evening’s entertainment in a holiday season of splendid spectacles like The Nutcracker. Indeed, the average theater patron may consider a play about authors and actors sufficiently self-referential to disappear up its own navel. However, the real drama is less about books and theater than about envy, ambition, love, fear, and regret. Chekov is not subtle: rather, like Eugene O’Neill, he cuts right to the heart. In this time of year, when the world is cold and dark and our hearts are restless and tired, such honesty can be as satisfying as any Christmas pageant.
Boom’s staging of The Seagull, as directed by Ryan Nicotra and stage managed by Erin Curran, is spare, its set minimal, as befits a play focused on characters unable to get away from the same rooms and the same people. For my part, I saw some fine performances when I went on Saturday, even if the pacing wavered here and there.
Vincent Seadler and Stacie Beard are well matched as Treplev, a frustrated young writer, and Arkadina, his famous and domineering mother. Dustin Horsman finds a suitable low key as Medvedenko, an impoverished schoolteacher pining for the depressive Masha, played by Kayleigh Daniels. Daniels manages to conjure up a few realistic moments of tragic self-awareness in an otherwise thankless role. In the smaller roles, Jennifer Hasselbusch, Eric Bailey and Paul Seadler are all enthusiastic; Hasselbusch perhaps getting the most out of her servant’s part. As the celebrated writer Trigorin, Brandon Bailey believably mixes the bemusement of a man who cannot account for his fame and the pathos of one who longs for something real. I found myself quite on his side, until I wasn’t.
This brings me to Nina, the ingénue and love interest of Trigorin and Treplev, as portrayed by Amy Parochetti. I confront the critic’s conundrum: Ms. Parochetti is my wife, and I have long enjoyed watching her act, so objectivity is impossible in my case. But I would still feel remiss in not praising her skill, stillness, and craft. So if you see the play, and don’t find her charming, blame me.
Boom came to Harford under the theory that if you build it, they will come. They’ve managed the first part, and if the company continues to produce work of this quality, they need not worry about the second.