On Wednesday night Andrew and I attended the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “King Lear” at the Guthrie Theater and last night we attended the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “The Seagull” at the Guthrie Theater.
Andrew and I went to “King Lear” by ourselves, but we went to “The Seagull” with Andrew’s parents and our landlady.
“King Lear” is such a great play that I do not even know how to discuss it. I read the play in high school, and again in college, but I had never seen the play staged until Wednesday night.
I thought the performance was quite good, but I have no frame of reference in this work. I can imagine a superior performance, but perhaps I am being unrealistic, because “King Lear” is known to be almost impossible to stage. A great performance of the play may be beyond the capabilities of human beings.
The play held my attention for three hours and forty-five minutes, and that has to say something for the skills of the actors onstage. In hindsight, I am glad that Andrew and I recently attended a performance of “The Dresser”, as it was interesting to see these two related plays in close succession.
I had never seen a performance of “The Seagull”, either, although I had read the play a few years ago. On the page, “The Seagull” always struck me as a notch below “The Cherry Orchard” and “The Three Sisters” and “Uncle Vanya” (and even “Ivanov”, for that matter).
The RSC performance of “The Seagull” was riveting. It may have been the best thing I have ever seen.
The company of actors was extraordinary. They offered the illusion of having known each other for life and having shared the same suffocating, oppressive environment for decades. They were unafraid to show irritation, and pettiness, and desperation, which made their displays of humanity all the more moving. A sense of community infiltrated the performance as the characters and their unfulfilled dreams rubbed elbows and overlapped and butted heads, often to very unpleasant effect.
This was not a genteel “Seagull”. This was not a “Seagull” in which the characters slowly and elegantly waltzed through their despair and shattered dreams in daguerreotype fashion, exhibiting a faded charm removed from flesh-and-blood concerns. This was a messy “Seagull”, filled with life, passion and terror. From the printed page, I didn’t know this play had such richness. I would like to see this production of “The Seagull” again, for three or four nights in a row, were that possible.
I was not the only one who was in awe of the production. Andrew and his parents and our landlady were equally full of admiration. Our landlady, a former drama instructor and constant theater-goer, said that the RSC “Seagull” was perhaps the single finest stage production she had ever seen.
I am very glad that the RSC made Minneapolis one of its stops on its American tour.
This weekend Andrew and I are going to stay home. We have a long list of things we need to get done, and we plan to have a very productive but quiet weekend.