Seagulls in a Cherry Tree by William Missouri Downs (2005)

For an extensive dramaturgical essay on this and the workshop production of the play, conducted at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival’s (now Orlando Shakespeare Theatre) Playfest in 2006 and 2007, please look under the Dramaturg tab above.

Link to Playfest Reviews in the Orlando Sentinel, January 18, 2005

`SEAGULLS IN A CHERRY TREE’ Review by Elizabeth Maupin

Playwright William Missouri Downs¬†knows his Chekhov, and he has combined at least three of the master’s best-known works into this seriocomical sendup, which spoofs two Hollywood screenwriters hired to adapt The Cherry Orchard for Walt Disney Pictures.

But you don’t have to have passed long hours in The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull or Three Sisters to chortle at this lampoon of all things artistic, set at an artists’ colony near Moscow, Idaho — the over-the-hill diva, the self-important mediocrity, the earnest young writer, the ambitious star-to-be.

It’s a great collection of caricatures, and at PlayFest Seagulls in a Cherry Tree gets an especially polished reading, with direction by Thomas Joyner and a nifty nine-member cast that includes Tom Nowicki, Sarah Hankins, Seth Maisel, Tommy Keesling and David Green.

Those who revere the esteemed Russian playwright will revel in Downs’ jibes — the encroaching gated community called Cherry Pit Estates, a gloomy hanger-on called Dr. Anton and especially the self-indulgent philosophizing of several of the characters, which stretches to comically grandiose proportions.

That philosophizing is often very funny, but a little of it goes a long way. If Downs could pare away a big chunk of talk, he would have a comedy that’s even sharper and screwier than it is now.