Lucy Jan-Tourin, the ingénue of the play within a play in Chekov’s “The Seagull,” literally keeps the production afloat at the Barn Arts Collective’s opener last weekend. PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Charcot, Chekov open Barn Arts’ new season



TREMONT — The folks at the Barn Arts Collective (formerly Mohawk) opened their 2015 summer season with a couple of works-in-progress.

The first, performed at Pacific Hall – a handsome decommissioned church in West Tremont, was an intriguing piece being created by visiting artists-in-residence who call themselves Anomalous. The play, entitled “Hysteria” and directed by Kathryn Syssoyeva, is a conceptual piece in the very early stages of its gestation.

It was performed by three actors, one of whom described herself as an aerialist. Although the scenes they enacted here were earthbound, the audience was invited to imagine several of them, involving trapezes and the aforementioned lengths of fabric, as intended for the air.

Using text and imagery from the book “The Invention of Hysteria,” about the photographic and proto-psychological studies of Jean-Martin Charcot, the two women in the acting troupe were trotted (or dragged) out before the audience in varying degrees of distress and exaggerated supplication.

The performance was divided into five sections, the last of which – involving both doctor and patient entangled in that length of fabric – was interrupted and restarted several times by Sissoyeva, giving the audience a sense of their creative process.

Much more became clear after the rehearsal was over and the director and actors took questions from a largely mystified, but interested audience.

The next presentation by Barn Arts Collective was an in-house production involving several familiar members of the local ensemble and taking place on site in Bass Harbor.

Apparently, throughout the winter, these theater buffs had regular meetings hosted by artistic director Andrew Simon and his partner Brittany Parker to discuss the works of Anton Chekov. As a culmination, they decided to present to the public the first act “The Seagull.”

The evening began, as it often does at this Barn venue, with a song from various ensemble members with a vaguely Chekhovian theme. There was also a poem written and read in beat style by Kathleen Lake, accompanied by Carl Ferm on sax, which was inspired by those winter sessions with Chekov. It was at once insightful, poignant and quite funny, referencing other star-crossed lovers of theater and literature pining for romance and attention.

The action then moved outdoors, where the 50 some audience members were seated between the house and the sea with a small sail strung between trees serving as both a curtain and a backdrop.

This too was a work in progress, with some of the seven or so actors often referring to their scripts, but it was totally charming in its intimacy and a reminder of how relevant Chekov still is, especially when, as in this iteration, the character of Masha, a women in love with the troubled young playwright Constantine, is cast as a man.

It was also a reminder that theater, like prayer, if performed with sincerity and honest intent, does not need a grand hall or fancy production to work.

In Chekov’s time, the debut of “The Seagull” was not well received. And this revival was also not without its distractions and detractors.

An abutting Bass Harbor neighbor, apparently disgruntled by the recent selectmen’s decision to allow performances, unintentionally fulfilled an historical role in the production by running his loud generator throughout the show. Actually, this was not a hindrance, as all the performers projected well, and it just became faint white noise in the background.

More intrusive but part of the play’s charm was the ad libbing of a stage-struck bird, a winter wren perhaps, that burst into ebullient song from time to time from a nearby tree.

The bird, the generator, the local and visiting artists, the music, the poetry and the classic and contemporary themes were all part of what added up to a splendid opening weekend at the Barn Arts Collective.

For information about upcoming shows, including their weekly Saturday morning kid’s show “We Run the Ship” at the Criterion in Bar Harbor, go to BarnArtsCollective.com.

 

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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