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Bird brain

Boris Eifman’s The Seagull
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  March 29, 2007

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FEATHERING HER NEST: Nina gives the men what they want, whatever that is.

The plays of Anton Chekhov don’t take well to dance: his words have a life of their own and must be translated out of Russian and into the body. Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams reduces Three Sisters to a series of frustrated-lover duets and then a duel; call it “Days of Our Chekhov Lives.” On the Elektra videotape of a 1992 Royal Ballet performance, Irek Mukhamedov, Darcey Bussell, Anthony Dowell, and Viviana Durante ghost past the birch trees like disembodied Chekhov spirits; the 2000 Boston Ballet production had more body language. (It’s never fair, of course, to compare live with video; live will always look better.)

The Seagull, an adaptation of which the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg is presenting at the Cutler Majestic Theatre through April 1, is a deep lake of dreams and nightmares, love and betrayal, art and alcohol. It’s set on the country estate of Petr Nikolaevich Sorin and his diva actress sister, Irina Nikolaevna Arkadina. Schoolteacher Medvedenko loves hard-drinking Masha, the daughter of the estate manager; Masha loves Irina’s son, aspiring playwright Treplev; Treplev loves a neighbor girl, aspiring actress Nina; and Nina is beginning to fall for Irina’s boyfriend, the writer Trigorin. And Polina, Masha’s mother, loves Dr. Dorn, who it’s clear is Masha’s father. Aesthetic conflict is in the air: the old-fashioned art of Irina and Trigorin versus Treplev’s vision of t