May 12-May 28, 2017
A zany new comedy described by Downs, author of the two previous NSTC hits, Cockeyed and Mad Gravity) as "the first new Chekhov play in a hundred years!" The comedy follows the adventures of Boris and Stan, two Hollywood screenwriters who have been hired by Disney to adapt Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard into a new movie for Mel Gibson. You will certainly recognize many iconic Chekhovian characters as they pursue love, longing, life and loss at the Dantchenko Colony for Artists and Creative Inquiry, Moscow, Idaho!
I should probably say right at the start that I really am not a fan of watching Anton Chekhov's plays. Born in 1860 and dying in 1904, at the age of 44, he was both a famous playwright and short story writer. He is considered to be important in the birth of modernism in the theatre. However, as the characters in this play tell the audience, Chekhov plays have little action and a great deal of talking. Everyone is rather depressed, they never seem to get what they want, and there are often one or several important gunshots. Despite this, I have always felt that I should like Chekhov's work, and so we have seen many, including The Seagull in Swedish. We produced Uncle Vanya here at the Black Box Theatre in 2003 with great success. We recently saw a Young Chekhov three play marathon (Platonov, Ivanov, and The Seagull) at the National Theatre in London, in preparation for directing the play you are about to see.
When we travel, we always look for good plays to produce at the Black Box Theatre. We saw Bill Down's Cockeyed in St Louis, and were immediately hooked on this playwright. I subsequently directed both Cockeyed (2010) and Mad Gravity (2015) here at the Black Box Theatre. They were huge hits. This season, I asked Bill about possible plays to direct/produce here, Seagulls in a Cherry Tree was one of the plays that Bill kindly e-mailed to me. This play cleverly combines important elements (including themes and character names) from The Cherry Orchard, Seagulls, The Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya, It was also truly wonderful to listen to Russian music, which you will hear throughout the play.
Bill attended a performance of Mad Gravity and we were delighted to welcome him back to our Opening Night of Seagulls in a Cherry Tree. Many thanks to him for his wonderful playwriting, and to my great cast and production team for bringing this funny and perceptive play to life. I hope you enjoy it, even if, like myself, you are not a Chekhov fan.
|Lighting, Set And Properties Design|
|Light Board Operator|
|Poster & Program Graphics|
Flock to see 'Seagulls in a Cherry Tree'
- By MIKE COOK, Las Cruces Bulletin
It's not often that you get to see a play sitting next to the playwright in a theatre haunted by the ghost of Anton Chekhov.
That was my experience at "Seagulls in a Cherry Tree," which opened May 12, and continues through Sunday, May 28, at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.
Downs, who lives in Wyoming, came to Las Cruces for the play's premiere. It's the third Downs play Black Box has produced since 2010. A fourth ("Headset: A View from the Light Booth") will be part of the theatre's 2017-18 season, and will make Black Box the first theatre to show four of his plays.
A prolific author and playwright, Downs was also a television writer, producing scripts for "Amen," "My Two Dads" and "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." "Seagulls in a Cherry Tree" reflects his familiarity with situation comedy.
The title is taken from Chekhov's plays "The Seagull" and "The Cherry Orchard." I love a good play on words, so this was a good start before the curtain was even up. You will find other sly references to Chekhov's, life, work and family - his nephew, Michael Chekhov was an Oscar-nominated actor who created a widely used acting method. The two-act play has four scenes, which Downs called Flirting, Eating, Drinking and Talking Stupidities. Excellent!
It helps, I think, to know a bit about Chekhov, who was born in Russia in 1860 and died in 1904. I've seen a couple of his plays, including "Uncle Vanya," which Black Box produced more than a decade ago. Biography.com says Chekhov's plays "emphasized the depths of human nature, the hidden significance of everyday events and the fine line between comedy and tragedy."
That last few words applies well to "Seagulls in a Cherry Tree." Its eight characters are both sad and hopeful, beaten down but still looking up. They seem to hold, at times, a tenuous grasp on reality and a bold vision for what's coming.
Uncle and nephew Boris and Constantine ("Call me Stan") have come to the Dantchenko Colony for the Arts and Creative Inquiry in Moscow (Idaho) to write a screenplay adapting a Chekhov work for a Mel Gibson movie. Their work is constantly interrupted by the triumphs and tragedies of the other characters, who fall in love with one another only to be scorned and ridiculed. They deal tragically and comically with death and thoughts of suicide, financial ruin and windfall, the mysteries of seagulls in cherry trees and life in general.
Joseluis Solorzano (Bob) rightfully gets the last bow at curtain call, but this is truly an ensemble cast. It also includes David Arias (Dr. Anton),
Eric Brekke (Uncle Peter, the philosopher), Jamie Bronstein (Madame Natasha), Heather Castillo (Nina, the aspiring actress), Elli Hernandez (Marsha, the maid), Joshua Taulbee (Constantine) and Monte H. Wright (Boris).
These theatre veterans have trod the boards on just about every Las Cruces stage. They bring experience, timing, wit and charm to this production, under the guiding hand of theatre co-owner and "Seagulls" director Ceil Herman (she also created the Russian music-themed soundtrack). Individually and collectively, I found much to appreciate in their work.
They get Chekhov (notwithstanding Uncle Peter's claim that he doesn't) and they get Downs' unique interpretation of the great Russian playwright.
Karen Ross is the stage manager. Jeanne Luper created wonderful costumes and Peter Herman did his usual great work with lights, properties and scenic design. Monti Moroni helped with set construction and worked the light board.
paBo! That is Russian for bravo!
Remaining performances of "Seagulls in a Cherry Tree" will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights,
No seating plan has been posted.