A Rain of Seagulls and Our Vanya, Ourselves

The festival was opened by The Ministry of Cultural Warfare, the company that produced my favorite show of last year’s Fringe, The Tyranny of God’s Love. [CAVEAT: I know most of the people who were working on this show.]

Verdict? Polished, and extremely entertaining, in particular the first piece (“A Rain of Seagulls”). This is a script that could easily have sunk underneath the weight of its own cleverness if it wasn’t ably abetted by a cast who both got the joke and had the skill to pull it off. In fact — in its easy shifting between ponderous statements and nonensical stream-of-consciousness, its blending of excessively intense delivery with occasional slapstick — stylistically, this so closely resembles another famous Chekhov parody — Woody Allen’s Love and Death — that I’d be surprised to learn that it wasn’t a conscious reference.

If it has a weakness, it’s that it tends to wear out its welcome — it’s one joke, and it’s a very funny joke, but I tire of it quickly.

A similar set of strengths and weaknesses characterizes the second act (“Our Vanya, Ourselves”), a mash-up of “Uncle Vanya” with an episode of “The Golden Girls.” You’ve now heard the one joke of that particular show — and for the first ten minutes, it’s hilarious! Fortunately, it doesn’t last long enough to become unpleasant to sit through, but the laughter fades after a while. After all, just how long can a premise like that be sustained?

In fact, so similar are the two shows in this respect that I wonder if I wouldn’t have felt more charitable towards both of them if they hadn’t been stapled together — one grows weary of empty cleverness, no matter how well-done. But it’s very well-done here, and I wonder if it wouldn’t be enjoyed more by someone without hostility towards the source material.

Glancing at the above, it looks like I really disliked the show — not so. It’s a solid two-act farce, and I was laughing pretty much non-stop from beginning to end. Both the writing and casting are superb, and it’s top-notch comedy. My only real criticism is that there wasn’t much there — it couldn’t have gone on much longer than it did, and I was ready for it to be over when it was. Hardly a damning observation.


One Response to “A Rain of Seagulls and Our Vanya, Ourselves”

  1. Meron Langsner Says:

    Your blog came up on my Google alert for my play (I wrote “A Rain of Seagulls”).

    Thank you for your kind words. I wish I were able to come to Minneapolis to see the festival.

    Also, for the record, I wasn’t aware of that Woody Allen movie, but it sounds like I’ll have to check it out!

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