April 1, 2016
Avian imagery abounds in Pan Pan's tart spin off “The Seagull and Other Birds” or maybe a better title “The Seagull and Other Dramas.”
Strapped into ballet class tunic, tutus, leotards and tights, the inter-generational cast hold arms up in balletic curves and strike the traditional classroom stance.
Class begins. The meditative knee bends (plies), foot stretches on the floor—(battements tendues), and airy arms curve up in front of the chest and apart in a port de bras. Just your everyday beginner’s ballet class? Well, not exactly. To start, men and women are stretching out in white and pink leotard and tights next to the tutu clad men. Crossing through the meditative exercises, a large, overbearing woman in black moans Masha’s famous lament: “I’m in mourning for my life.” What would Chekhov think? Well, this is more about feeling than thinking, like Chekhov’s characters that spew inner emotions regardless of external currents.
This pranksterish show springs from the imagination of the Irish-based, rule-breaking Pan Pan, a motley group of actors mashing up improv and set sections making it open enough to integrate unsuspecting audience members and yet clearly structured.
Perfectly situated in the Abrons Arts Center, the stage is intimate enough to draw in the audience both metaphorically and literally. Actors roam the aisles, pick off audience members to don bits of costume and pose—sometimes better than the actors—always to wild applause. For those familiar with the original, characters like Nina, Konstantin, Nina, Sorin and Trigorin are recognizable, only they chatter in “potty mouth” superlatives and extract some of the more recognizable lines from “The Seagull.”
Throughout the stage ramblings, there’s a mash-up of texts extracted from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Lena Dunham’s “Girls” and strains of Tchaikovsky’s equally tragic “Swan Lake” not to mention riffs from The Rolling Stones, and gangsta rap thus referencing previous productions known for fusing high and low art.
In the end, this production makes sense because in Chekhov’s original, the young, romantic playwright Konstantin (Dick Walsh) insists that only avant-garde theater will save the artform from stagnation.
Founded in 1990 by Aedin Cosgrove and Gavin Quinn, Pan Pan’s “Seagull” is directed by Quinn and designed by Cosgrove and includes text by Quinn, Chekhov, Kich Walsh, Derrick Devine and Dan Riordan plus the anarchic cast members Andrew Bennett, Gina Moxley and Daniel Reardon.
Come for theater, stay for the lark.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis