The Seagull, TimeLine Theatre Company, at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall Theatre. Seldom have artists been portrayed less flatteringly than in The Seagull, which presents us with a vain grande dame of the Moscow stage, the popular but uninspired novelist on whom she dotes, and her literary son, Konstantin, who seethes with ambition and oedipal rage.

Director Lynn Ann Bernatowicz recognizes the humor in Chekhov’s satirical portrait of his contemporaries, though her low-comedy interpretation of Konstantin’s quasi-symbolist play (and girl-next-door Nina’s performance) makes their artistic aspirations–and subsequent sacrifices–difficult to take seriously. Further skewing the dynamic is P.J. Powers’s portrayal of Konstantin: his boyish voice and appearance give the character the air of a petulant adolescent (heightened by the casting of the youthful Donna Smothers McGough as his mother).

Many of the actors in this Timeline Theatre Company production seemed not yet comfortable with their roles on opening night. Exceptions included Bill McGough’s suave Dr. Dorn and Michele DiMaso’s lively proto-goth Masha (who wears only black, snorts snuff, and swills brandy from a flask). After a sluggish start, the play catches fire in the second act, chiefly due to the removal of a gazebo that obstructs the view from every seat in the house.

–Mary Shen Barnidge