“People don’t come to the theater to feel good,” Libby Appel says. “They come to feel.”
As with all of Anton Chekhov’s plays, “The Seagull” has a lot of feelings: hope, ambition, failure, pain, persistence. Not a melodrama, it’s a masterpiece of subtle, indirect communication, much of it in subtext.
Appel’s new English version of the play gets its professional world premiere, called “Seagull,” at Marin Theatre Co. this week in a production directed by Jasson Minadakis.
Last year, it was performed at UC Santa Barbara, directed by Irwin Appel, the translator’s son.
In “Seagull,” Appel — a major figure in the theater world who has directed and produced plays across the country for many years — again based her interpretation on Allison Horsley’s literal translations from Russian.
Appel, who previously translated “Uncle Vanya,” “Three Sisters” and “The Cherry Orchard,” applies what she calls “interpretive license.”
Using newly discovered material from Chekhov’s original manuscripts, Appel keeps the language authentic to the characters, serving the play’s intimate nature. The slice-of-life drama set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th century is populated by people dissatisfied with their lives and reaching out in vain, mostly to the wrong person.
Appel’s devotion to Chekhov is in part due to the fact that she’s from a Russian Jewish family, for whom culture in general, and theater specifically, were essential aspects of the heritage they carried to the new world.
In her translations, Appel’s goal is to honor what she once said about the quality shared by Chekhov and Shakespeare: “An ability to look beyond just what is happening or being said, and to illuminate the darkness beneath.”
Now emeritus director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she served as the Ashland, Ore., company’s artistic director from 1995 to 2007, and was known for introducing and commissioning new plays.
She also brought cross-gender and “color-conscious” casting to the festival, while maintaining commercial success during several economic downturns.
IF YOU GO
Where: Marin Theatre, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays; closes Feb. 20
Tickets: $20 to $48
Contact: (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatre.org