MONTREAL — What you see and hear isn’t always what you get. Sometimes it’s all about the subtext.
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents the Anton Chekhov classic “The Seagull” for a limited two-week run beginning Sunday. The work receives a contemporary makeover with adaptation and direction by Shaw Fest alum Peter Hinton.
“The Seagull” follows a group of artists who spend a summer break at a country estate. The bittersweet comic tale tackles everything from romantic love triangles to suicide.
“At this country estate these writers and actors meet many of the local country people who don’t live out the celebrity and fame of the artists’ dreams,” Hinton said. “So it’s a sort of collision of country and city, and the past and the future of famous artistic people and people who lived working rural lives.”
Hinton says that Chekhov’s plays, a Russian theater mainstay from the 1890s to the early 20th century, depict people who are torn between an idealized view of their past as well as an uncertain sense of their own future.
“Chekhov is so unique unto himself,” Hinton said. “He was a real pioneer of realism and naturalism. And he wanted to capture all of the ambiguities and idiosyncratic nature to life.”
The constant mix of “oppositions” provides the basis for Chekhov’s take on comedy and tragedy intertwining. And what others saw as tragedy, Chekhov often looked at from a different angle. Hinton says that often our collective darkest hours often boast a string of comic release.
“And it’s not until after something’s happened that one recognizes that escape from fate,” he said.
Hinton says this artistic trait is often debated in Chekhov’s works.
“In these plays of incredible sadness is what Chekov saw as comedies,” Hinton said. “It’s like life that way.”