THE SEA GULL

Jean-Claude van Itallie's English version of Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull was first produced at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey in October, 1973, directed by Lou Criss, with Daniel Seltzer as Sorin, and Irene Dailey as Arkadina. It was next produced in New York City at the Manhattan Theatre Club in January, 1975, directed by Joseph Chaikin, costumes by Gwen Fabricant. 
 

The cast included Leueen MacGrath as Arkadina, Tina Shepherd as Nina, Margo Lee Sherman as Masha, and Daniel Seltzer as Sorin.

Some other productions of the van Itallie version of Chekhov's The Sea Gull include: the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, October, 1977, with Ruth Ford as Arkadina; New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, New York City, directed byAndrei Serban, with Rosemary Harris as Arkadina, Christopher Walken as Trigorin, and F. Murray Abraham as Dorn; Circle Repertory, New York City, in October, 1983, directed by Elinor Renfield, with Judd Hirsch as Trigorin, and Richard Thomas as Treplyev; River Arts Repertory, Woodstock, New York in July, 1985, directed by Laurence Sacharow with Joanne Woodward as Arkadina; Great Lakes Theater Festival, Cleveland, in October 1989, directed byGerald Freedman, with Anita Gillette as Arkadina; New York Shakespeare Festival; and the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, directed by Andrei Serban.

FROM REVIEWS OF VAN ITALLIE’S TRANSLATION OF THE SEA GULL

"Sublimely understood Chekhov…Absolutely true to the original." New York Post. 

"Even to talk about landmarks in a history yet to be written is not only dangerous but also gauche. Yet on occasion a critic has to be gauche to be right... The Sea Gull at the Manhattan Theater Club is a major step toward our future national classical theater. … The advantage of using major playwrights to Anglicize foreign classics are obvious. Occasionally they may slip into the pit of primal creativity, but for most of the time, indeed for virtually all of the time they are renewing language rather than translating it. … Mr. van Itallie’s Sea Gull is idiomatic, but it has the overtones of now and then. It is a real past – translation does have its advantages when the right person is translating the right playwright. There is here the soft trampoline of a subtext that original language productions can never aspire to without the risk of desecration of a national monument." Clive Barnes, New York Times.

EXCERPT

Treplyev remains alone sitting at his desk. Preparing to write, he looks over what he's already written.

TREPLYEV: I've talked and talked about creating new forms, but little by little I'm falling into a pattern myself.

   (He reads.)

"The poster proclaimed a pale face framed by dark hair." "Proclaimed," "framed by dark hair" -- horrible. Trite.

   (He crosses it out.)

I'll start when the hero is woken by the rain. I'll cut the rest. The description of the moonlit night is too long, too precious. Trigorin's style is set -- he has it easy. The broken piece of bottle lies on the dam glittering, the mill wheel casts its dark shadow -- and there's his moonlit night. But I have to include the shimmering light, the soft twinkling of the stars, and the distant piano sounds dying away in the fragrant air. Horrible. This is agony.

   (pause)

More and more I think it's not a question of new forms or old forms. What matters is to allow what you write to come straight from the heart.

   (There is a tap at the window near the desk.)

What's that?

   (He looks out.)

I can't see anything.

   (He opens the French doors, looks into the garden.)

Someone's running down the steps. Who's there?

 

(He goes into the garden. We hear his steps as he runs along the terrace. A moment later he returns with Nina.)

Nina! Nina!

   (She leans her head on his breast with restrained sobbing.    He is very moved.)

Nina! Nina, it's you. You! I knew it. I had a feeling -- all day my heart's been pounding.

   (He takes off her hat and cape.)

Oh, my sweet darling. She's come! Don't cry. Let's not cry.

NINA: Someone's here.

TREPLYEV: No one, there's no one.

NINA: Lock the doors, or someone might come in.

TREPLYEV: No one will come in.

NINA: I know Irina Nikolayevna's here. Please lock the doors...

Published: Chekhov, the Major Plays, van Itallie, Applause Books

acting version: Dramatists Play Service