Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“LA GAVIOTA” – ion theatre
AIRDATE: MAY 2, 2008
For Cinco de Mayo this year, put a little Latin drama in your life. Try “La Gaviota,” which means “The Seagull,” a brand new adaptation of the Anton Chekhov classic. Written by Claudio Raygoza, the co-founder and executive artistic director of ion theatre, this world premiere is set in coastal Veracruz in 1910, on the eve of the Mexican Revolution — a tumultuous time, with storms brewing and the electricity of change in the air.
The plot hews close to Chekhov’s 1895 original, and also reflects a bit of Raygoza’s own ancestry. But the focus remains on a large and mostly-loving extended family, which is rife with artistic clashes and romantic conflicts. Almost everyone is a victim of unrequited love. In the realm of art, youth and daring are contrasted with the safe and conventional.
The fading leading lady confronts the upcoming ingénue; the famous, middlebrow novelist is juxtaposed with the brooding, experimental artist — in Chekhov, an avant-garde playwright; in Raygoza’s version, a budding filmmaker, exploring a new and innovative medium. In either case, he’s ridiculed and reviled for his creativity. He loves the young actress; she longs for the older novelist, who’s the lover of the temperamental diva. The dapper country doctor worships the older actress. The housekeeper loves the doctor, with whom she had an early affair, the result of which is a depressive daughter who pines for a secret love, probably the filmmaker. In the end, alas, youth does not triumph over age; it succumbs to the torments of life.
And always roiling under the surface is the encroaching Revolution, though it could be given more color and regional specificity. 20th century Mexico, like Chekhov’s 19th century Russia, is steeped in class distinction. The country estate belongs to the wealthy; the foreman and housekeeper are working-class, and here we see a bent, silent Yacqui Indian, but not enough is made of this socioeconomic hierarchy.
What’s most striking about this new creation is the language. The play is long and complex, and still a work-in-progress. But Raygoza is an exciting, galvanic writer, drawing deeply on his bilingual background, crafting lines that leapfrog from gritty and muscular to poetic and lyrical.
Director Glenn Paris, ion theatre co-founder, helms an excellent ensemble, with charismatic Linda Castro at the center, as the casually cruel actress. Sara Beth Morgan is heartbreaking as the struggling young muse. The multi-talented Raygoza, who impressively plays the callous novelist, also designed the eye-catching set, along with fellow actor Matt Scott. The brightly colored adobe house, draped in flowers, sits on the edge of an expanse of sand. In ion’s intimate Lab theater, we’re inexorably drawn into this evocative world that is, like our own, in a state of agitation and instability.
“La Gaviota” runs through May 17 in The Lab at the Academy of Performing Arts near SDSU
©2008 PAT LAUNER