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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“The Seagull” Shines with Maturity, Excellent Costume Design


During Act 1, friends and family of Treplev (played by Chris Louis) gather to watch his play.



UMass Boston’s production of “The Seagull” was a bold step forward in the maturity of its theater scene, which has been without serious costume design talent for some time. Productions have always had good direction at the helm, and the sets, scenery, and lighting have improved since Anthony Phelps was hired as assistant professor. This production, in particular, had fantastic costuming done by Leslie Held.

The set transported the cast and audience back in time to the early 1900s with its warm, rustic tones and other particular touches such as an elaborate oriental rug and bookcases of detailed, leather-bound tomes. The costumes, gowns, suits — everything from vests to worn leather shoes — set the entire production awash with colorful harmony, even during the drama’s descent into darkness in the second half. It was a delight to behold. Some moments would have made for good paintings, such as the opening of Act II.

The cast, mostly students in their early twenties, were able to capture Chekhov’s humor and a fair deal of the dramatic aging Russian characters, who often reminisced about “the good old days” and their past relationships together. When the young actors spoke of their character’s ages, such as when a 20-year-old says, “I’m 55 years old,” it felt a little odd, even though spoken with conviction.

There were some other, subtle nuances missing in the students’ performances found in the mannerisms and worldliness of older actors. Theater faculty member Michael Fennimore’s guest appearance as Sorin was a welcome surprise; thanks to his age and experience, he filled out his role perfectly and added a reference point which might have otherwise been missing.

Highlights of the show included Arkadina’s ongoing battle to be the center of attention and a loving mother. Kendra White used her full array of facial expressions to great effect while playing the role. Matrid Neli memorably sang, “Bravo, Silva!” as estate owner Shamrayev, Nurcin Celebi continuously hit the snuff box and bottle as the ever-grieving Masha, and Zachary Scott was the smooth, aloof doctor, Dorn.

Each member of the cast had their memorable moments, especially after the intermission, as the drama began to take a turn. The untalented Nina, for example, ever-seeking stardom on the stage, finally learns to express her perpetual unhappiness, thanks to the skills of actress Cat Roberts.

Though the script was written for older characters, this cast of university students held it together, and in some ways “The Seagull” became the story of a younger generation. Problems including munching words and novice tactics such as gazing off into the distance resolutely were virtually nonexistent, and often the audience was transported into Chekhov’s writing. Focus was steady throughout, though in a few of the monologues, not all of the complex ideas stayed connected, and sometimes age was depicted with stiffness.

The acting was well-directed, and it was clear the students had grown and learned from the experience. The scenery and costumes were a wonderful surprise, and while the theater department has been in need of costume design faculty, what made this a memorable experience and something significant was that a theater faculty member was onstage with students. It was a special treat to watch and for the student actors, it must have been a good bonding experience.