October 3, 2008 / 1:12 AM / 10 years ago

Scott Thomas superb in "Seagull'

British actress Kristin Scott Thomas poses for photographers as she arrives at the world premiere of "Keeping Mum" at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square, London in this file photo from November 28, 2005. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The Royal Court Theatre’s production of “The Seagull” has flown triumphantly from London to New York with most of its acclaimed cast intact.

This beautifully modulated revival of Chekhov’s classic, presented in a new version by playwright Christopher Hampton (“Les Liaisons Dangereuses”) and starring Kristin Scott

Thomas in her belated New York stage debut, figures to be the snob theatre event of Broadway’s fall season.

The major cast change in the production — staged by Ian Rickson in his swan song as Royal Court artistic director — is the replacement of Chiwetel Ejiofor with Peter Sarsgaard in the key role of aloof, self-absorbed writer Trigorin. Interpreting the character as somewhat edgier and less likable than did his predecessor, Sarsgaard delivers an intelligent, nuanced turn that gives the play a darker tone than it had in London.

Thomas perfectly captures the ageing actress Arkadina’s vainglorious air. She constantly provides little details that convey the character’s selfishness, no more so than in the scene when Arkadina’s elderly brother, Sorin (Peter Wright), suddenly passes out. At first frozen, as if deciding whether the disruption is worth any effort, she finally springs into action, delivering a glass of water to the stricken man. But not before taking a drink from it herself.

The supporting cast is equally sublime. Mackenzie Crook (familiar from his role on the original version of the television series “The Office”) is movingly pathetic as the doomed Konstantin, who is unable to overcome his despair over his unrequited love for the beautiful Nina, sensitively played by Carey Mulligan. Another standout is Art Malik, who brings a consistently intriguing balance between amusement and tenderness to his turn as Dr. Dorn.

The production’s stark but highly effective design elements, including the haunting incidental music by Stephen Warbeck, lose none of their power in the larger confines of the Walter Kerr Theatre.

There has been an absolute glut of “Seagull” revivals recently in New York, but this rendition is special enough to make the play’s return a welcome event nonetheless.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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