In Sharr White's new play The Snow Geese at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, Mary-Louise Parker as Elizabeth wears black, in mourning for her dead husband, but really she is attired in Jane Greenwood's circa 1917 period detail, eh weeds, for a lost way of life. Under Daniel Sullivan's direction, a family who thinks it has money, now doesn't. Two brothers (Evan Jongkeit and Brian Cross, both very fine) vie in Oedipal conflict. Max Hohmann (Danny Burstein), a doctor put out of business because he is German, administers laudanum while his wife and Elizabeth's sister Clarissa (Victoria Clark) keeps everyone in line. The pretty Ukrainian maid Victoria (Jessica Love) learns to make coffee, now that she's a refugee from former upper class wealth. A gun brandished, fires off. Wild geese fly afrenzy as if in Hitchcock's The Birds. As soon as you know the house will go, you are in Chekhov country, even though the setting is rural New York.
But geographic and psychic dislocation also mark Thomas Kilroy's Anglo-Irish adaptation of The Seagull now performed at the Culture Project newly minted Lynn Redgrave Theater, with Trudie Styler in the role of the ageing actress now called Isobel Desmond (hmmm, Norma?). You may find yourself yearning for one of the most famous lines in Chekhov, "I'm in mourning for my life," from Chekhov's classic depiction of Russian aristocrats. The line so embodies the modernist affliction, the melancholy that accompanies unfulfilled lofty ideals. Ah, how life can be so much more. And yet, as the characters parade across the stage in this version directed by Max Stafford-Clark, across a garden at a country estate, you are aware of the regal elegance of Styler in Ilona Somogyi's period designs, a blue fitted ensemble, a red evening gown. Even as her Isobel cannot fathom the mindset of her playwright son Constantine (Slate Holmgren) as he tries to commit suicide, she is comic, clueless, and frivolous. Styler's performance is well worth the journey downtown.
As is Marin Ireland portraying the doomed queen in Marie Antoinette, wearing Anka Lupes' red froufrou layered strapless Vera Wang knockoff at the Soho Rep. In David Adjmi's version of history as directed by Rebecca Taichman, the Austrian who reviled the French is a vapid teen, whose line about eating cake turns funny as she's talking about healthy food for tots. Even as this avant-garde play moves through the politics of a court out of sync with its constituents, with the nebbish king Louis XVI (Steven Rattazzi, evoking Danny DeVito) as impotent a ruler as he is in bed, and matters of state predicted handily by a sheep (David Greenspan), you see Marie's death as a triumph. Hair shorn on stage--literally, the red number supplanted by a beige sack, Ireland's forceful performance propels the queen toward infamy.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.