Though Anton Chekhov considered “The Seagull” a comedy, most people don’t see it that way, until now.
Under the smart direction of Maria Aitken, the Huntington Theatre Company’s current production feels refreshingly light and funny, explosive ending notwithstanding. Paul Schmidt’s translation is perfect for a contemporary American audience; a group of quirky people of varying degrees of likability talk about plot-driving action you never actually see.
Kate Burton (from TV’s “Scandal”) and Morgan Ritchie play narcissistic actress Irina Arkadina and her hapless son Konstantin. Though they are mother and son in real life, they play it with such authenticity you hope they’re acting. Though unrequited love is a central theme, Irina’s clueless, dismissive treatment of her son is far more disturbing than amusing.
For everyone else, laughter is fair game.
Meredith Holzman delivers caustic quips like a modern-day mean girl in a flawless turn as Masha, the brow-beating, substance-snorter who wears black because she’s “in mourning for (her) life.” Nael Nacer is equally riotous as her lovesick wisp of a husband, Semyon Medvedenko.
Though Masha not-so-secretly loves Konstantin, his heart yearns for Nina, the lovely local played superbly by Auden Thornton. As luck — and Chekhovian drama — would have it, Nina falls for Irina’s man, the suave, sleazy author Trigorin (an impressive Ted Koch). Inspired by Nina, the successful scribe imagines a short story about a man who destroys a young girl’s life because he has nothing better to do.
They continue to plod along, oblivious to the brick wall their silly little lives are about to hit. And when they do, you never see it. The look and feel of this “Seagull” may be different, but it’s still Chekhov.
Through April 6
264 Huntington Ave., Boston