March 28, 2016

The expletive smack in the middle of the title of Aaron Posner’s “sort of” adaptation of “The Seagull” is not there for decoration, or even provocation. It is wholly emblematic of Mr. Posner’s raw, theatrically audacious version of this Chekhov classic, which is being presented in New York in a viscerally well-acted production from the Pearl Theater Company. “Stupid _____ Bird,” like many adaptations of Chekhov, sets the play in the here and now, only more so. The drama follows the essential contours of the original, but Mr. Posner also crashes through the fourth wall at regular intervals and ultimately implies that the play that we are watching is not a fixed entity, but is being unleashed from the frantic mind of Constantin (Christopher Sears), or Con, as we are absorbing it. The play’s meta-theatrical elements — the exposed backstage sets (a first-rate design by Sandra Goldmark); the actors in the wings watching the action; the occasional acknowledgment that we are watching not life but an artificial imitation of it — are hardly original. But Mr. Posner integrates them with Chekhov’s drama in a way that makes us view the original with fresh, startled eyes.