Culture Corner With Jack Burton: The Seagull

Heya Folks,

It's me, your old buddy Jackie Burton. Been a while since I rapped at ya, but I got somethin' on my mind so shut off the iPod and lend me your ear, will ya? I'll give it back, that's a promise.

Now I don't need to tell you that The Jackster prefers to live his life to the maximum; his hobbies include driving fast trucks, dodging punches, gambling with criminals, and helping people in trouble. What you may not know, however, is that The Jack Man is simply spellbound by the magic of live theater. A successful show... oh, how do I phrase this? ...It opens the heart... like the wings of a newly formed butterfly; unfolding - blossoming - revealing us to ourselves. It's a sublime and transcendent experience! 'Course, sometimes things go horribly wrong. Sometimes the production is an endless chain of malfunctions and there ain't no flowers bloomin' - maybe Venus Fly Traps - and guess what? You're the fly.

I recently took in a free production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at the Parker Hudson Community Theater. It's an all-time favorite of mine; top shelf stuff. A comedy so sharp you might mistake it for a melodrama. A reflection on family and failure, success and ambition. I mean here's a play that's right up there with The Great Pyramids, tank tops, and Democracy... Chekhov's genius is in creating authentic characters and defining them through their insincerity. So when I realized the jackal-bats on stage intended to take that insincerity and portray it in compound with their own insincerity, well, it had me sincerely goin' green. And no, I ain't talkin' about recycling. Unless yackin' up Jack Snacks qualifies as recycling - which it doesn't.

Now listen, nobody ever said Chekhov's plays were easy. To stage a successful production takes exceptional hard work and determination. The script is a ninja star of subtext and it never stops spinning - so you can imagine my disgust when they opened with a song. News flash folks, The Seagull is not a musical.

The script was revised, peppered with references to contemporary life; the internet, John Steinbeck, New York. I don't mind daring theater, the Jack Attack accepts all challenges, but it was done so halfheartedly. It was more like they took a red pen and marked up Chekhov's masterpiece with the willy-nilly carelessness of a waitress jotting down your order, "that'll be a serving of one timeless masterpiece with extra crap sauce and hold the subtlety. Anything else?" Yea! Kill me, please! The dialogue was disjoint, moods shifted incomprehensibly, and most of the cast was yelling their lines instead of simply enunciating from the diaphragm. That's theater 101, kids.

I panicked! I scanned for the exits - but then I regained my cool. Jack Burton doesn't walk out in the middle of an act. He waits until intermission like a gentleman. Well these goof-blisters out-smarted me on that front too - no intermission! It was not a pretty sight. I mean I've been in some truly harrowing jams over the years but nothing that compares to the tooth grinding torture of sitting in that auditorium for over two hours.

Anyway, like all things ultimately do, it ended. They did one last song and they set us free - dazed, humiliated, and vaguely angry, into the world to guzzle beer until we finally washed the taste of blasphemy out of our mouths. Folks, let me leave you with a word of caution: think twice before attending a free play. It may seem like a can't lose situation but Old Jack learned the hard way, sometimes there's a required donation - and it ain't money, it's your soul.

Here's your ear back. Thanks for the loan.

Your pal around town,
Jack Burton

this is an editorial by Jack Burton from Big Trouble In Little China and may not reflect the views of ILOANBooks