The Sea Gull is a 1896
play by Russian master Anton Chekhov
. Self-described as 'A comedy
in four acts,' it has as much melancholy drama
as comedy. When it first opened, the audience, expecting light entertainment, booed and stamped their feet throughout. The play closed quickly,. but was revived two years later at the Moscow Art Theatre
, where it garnered success and accolades.
The Sea Gull is about a young man named Konstantin Gavrilovich Treplev, who is trying to make a name for himself as an artist. He is at odds with his mother, Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina, who is a famous actress. Arkadina is shallow and manipulative. Her lover, Boris Trigorin, is a talented writer, whom Treplev is jealous of. Treplev is in love with a young lady, Nina Zarechnaya. Nina, unfortunately, is enchanted by fame, and falls for Trigorin. Nina aspires to be an actress, and ends up going to off to Moscow to pursue both this and Trigorin. Treplev is haunted by his love for Nina, and also his desire to bring forth new forms for art in his writing. Nina has a child by Trigorin, the child dies, and Trigorin eventually becomes bored of Nina. Nina finds no success on the stage. She returns to her home, unravelled, and still will not return Treplev's love. Treplev, distraught, commits suicide.
This summary only scratches the surface of The Sea Gull. The characters, of which there are more than just the four mentioned in passing, form a complicated web of relationships. The primary focus of the play is on art and artists, (Chekhov was criticizing the drama of his time) though themes of love, aging, and regret are strongly woven into the play. The characters speak plainly, and act naturally, and this play written over a hundred years ago feels right at home on the modern stage.