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Sell-out Nunn-McClellan gem at BAM

September 20, 2007 22:52 IST

An extraordinary theatrical event is taking place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where the renowned director Trevor Nunn (whose Broadway hits include the sensationally successful Cats and Les Miserables) offers for just a few days King Lear and The Seagull.

Nunn, who has directed many Shakespearean plays, brings on the sold-out King Lear -- featuring one of the most astounding of theater actors, Ian McClellan (Amadeus and Dance of Death on Broadway and the films Gods and Monsters, The Lord of the Rings and X-Men) -- and thus honors the vow he took over three decades ago. The two had sworn that they would collaborate on Shakespeare's singular tragedy King Lear.

In addition to Lear, Nunn also offers another Royal Shakespeare Company production, Chekhov's immortal account of unrequited love and ambition, The Seagull.

Nunn has said that he cherishes the idea of pairing two plays that seem to be very different from each other, and using most of the artists in both productions.

The tragedy of King Lear who thinks he is divine and who cannot see through flattery has quite a few things in common with the characters in The Seagull, Nunn has said.

'Both plays explore the fear that one generation has of another,' he explains. 'The older generation fears the young taking over. The younger generation is impatient and in fear of having to continue with the older generation around. The characters in both plays are confused and frightened by their mortality.

Both plays seem to believe that the idea of endurance is more important than any other human belief. It is necessary to endure.'

Nunn stages the mostly melancholic Seagull with quite a bit of energy and a fast pace. He also accentuates some of the comic elements in the show, which has been ably acted by the cast, some of whom also act in King Lear.

Anton Chekhov, who wrote plays and stories even as he worked as a full time physician in Russia, offers the sad story of a would-be writer, Konstantin, who hopes to write plays that will shatter what he sees as the artificiality in theater.

But his self-indulgent mother, a famed actress, dismisses his work and does not have anything good to say about him. Her lover, a much younger man and a successful writer, is ruthless in his passion and steals away Konstantin's beloved, the aspiring actress Nina.

The play starts with a group of friends and relations gathered at a country estate near Moscow to see the first performance of an experimental play written and staged by Konstantin.

The presence of the mother and her lover not only disrupts the performance, but also soon affects the lives of all those present.

Although Trevor Nunn's version of The Seagull is considerably upbeat compared to other versions seen recently on Broadway and TV, he does succeed in bringing out the irony and pathos in the lives of aristocrats, some of who have no heart or conscience.

One of the most touching scenes in the play involve Nina, who has been abandoned by the writer who stole her from the playwright, meeting the latter after a gap of two years.

She remembers his love for her and yet she cannot forget the memories of the man who had loved her, given her a child and thrown her off, to go back to her older, aristocratic lover. Her attitude leads to a fatal tragedy.  

While most of The Seagull performances have been sold out, tickets, ranging from $30 to $90 were recently available for the 7:30 pm shows September 21, 22, 28 and 29.

The Seagull: Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, (718)636-4100.

Arthur J Pais