The character of Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull is one of the finest roles available for any young actress and her relationship with the devoted young would-be writer Konstantin is an intersting aspect of the play. The idea of the The Nina Variations is to present numerous variations on their interaction together, especially their final scene, to explore the relationship further. It is an interesting approach, but only a partial success.
These variations deconstruct and reorganize the scenes with occasional interjections of modern moments. In these riffs, Nina (Melissa Marie Hmelnicky) and Konstantin (Kevin O’Reilly) confront each other on topics such as life, love, passion, and the arts.
As the characters proceed through the variations, their relationship seems deeper, more complicated, and closer that in The Seagull. The two actors are true to the characters and Ms. Hmelnicky is particularly appealing. Director Bob Bartlett helps the scene stay true to Chekhov in spirit and mood.
Even for a fan of Chekhov and his Seagull, the 42 (yes, 42) variations become a little tedious over time . The variations blend together and the point of the particular scenes or sequences of scenes becomes unclear. Roughly halfway through you may find yourself watching the projected number at the start of each scene more with relief that the play is approaching a conclusion than anticipation of the new variation.
In The Nina Variations the characters rehash Konstantin’s effort to create new forms of literative, exemplified by his failed play-within-a-play in The Seagull performed by Nina. Konstantin states that these new forms are “imminent but elusive.” Perhaps Steven Dietz’s The Nina Variations illustrates that point all too well.
The Nina Variations
Written by Steven Dietz
Directed by Bob Bartlett
Presented by The Adequate Players
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Running time: 1 hour
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