Anton Chekhov’s classic 1896 play The Seagull is getting ready to take flight once more, now that Saoirse Ronan and Annette Bening have signed on to lead theatre and film director Michael Mayer’s new take on the tale.
Ant-Man‘s Corey Stoll and newcomer Billy Howe are also in the cast for the adaptation, which boasts a script by Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Karam (play Sons of the Prophet). Mayer is a versatile helmer best known for directing Broadway productions Spring Awakening back in 2007 and Hedwig and the Angry Inch last year. He was Tony-nominated for both and won for the former. As a film and television director, he helmed the family pic Flicka back in 2006 and also worked on NBC’s short-lived musical drama Smash.
The Seagull centers on the romantic and artistic clashes between fading actress Irina Arkadina; fresh-faced ingenue Nina Zarechnaya; famous writer Boris Trigorin, Irina’s lover; and failing playwright Konstantin Treplyov, Irina’s son who is in love with Nina. All four come up against one another while visiting a country estate owned by Irina’s brother. Barring any consciously strange casting shifts, Bening will play Irina, Ronan will take on the part of Nina, Stoll will portray Borin, and Howle is prepping for the part of Konstantin.
Notably, when Chekhov first opened The Seagull in St. Petersburg, it was greeted with vehement hostility from the audience. Two years later, though, when it was directed by one of the country’s leading theatre practitioners, it became a huge triumph. Now, it’s widely regarded as one of the most important plays ever written. It was last adapted for film in 1968 by Sidney Lumet, with Vanessa Redgrave, Simone Signoret, David Warner and James Mason in the cast, but that film was poorly received, and no other adaptations have been made since (despite attempts to get a film called Relative Insanity off the ground in 2012 with David Duchovny and Helen Hunt).
With all the talent involved here, though, there’s reason to hope for a worthy modernization of The Seagull. The pic is set to go into production in upstate New York this summer.