KARACHI - Anton Chekhovs brilliant masterpiece 'The Seagull was staged at Arts Council where marvellous characters showed how twist and turns of fate lead a loving couple to tragic end. The play was written in 1896 and is set in a rural Russian house, a place near the lake and some old trees. The plot focuses on the romantic and artistic conflicts among an eclectic group of characters; the interaction slowly leads to an oral and spiritual disintegration of each of them and which ultimately leads to the tragic end. The cast and crewmembers of Napa Theatre did full justice to their roles and under the direction of Zia Mohyuddin gave a commendable performance. The plot revolves around the lives of four characters, the ing_nue Nina (brilliantly played by Aiman Tariq), the fading actress Irina Arkadina (the commanding Bakhtawar Mazhar), her son the symbolist playwright Konstantin Treplyov (young and enthusiastic Saquib Khan), and the famous middlebrow story writer Trigorin (inacted by the charming Rahat Kazmi). The play takes place on a country estate owned by Sorin (the gentle old man Arshad Mahmood), a former government employee with falling health. He is the brother of the famous actress Arkadina, who has just arrived at the estate with her lover, Trigorin, for a brief vacation. In Act I, the people staying at Sorins estate gather to see a silly play that Arkadinas son Konstantin has written and directed. The play-within-a-play stars Nina, a young girl who lives on a neighbouring estate, as the soul of the world. The play is his latest attempt at creating a new theatrical form, and resembles a dense symbolist work. Arkadina laughs at the play, finding it ridiculous and incomprehensible, while Konstantin storms off in disgrace. Act I also sets up the plays many romantic triangles. The schoolteacher Medvedenko loves Masha (Naila Jaffrey), the daughter of the estates steward. Masha, in turn, is in love with Konstantin, who is courting Nina. When Masha tells the kindly old doctor Dorn about her longing, he helplessly blames the moon and the lake for making everybody feel romantic. Act II takes place in the afternoon outside of the estate, a few days later. After reminiscing about happier times, Arkadina engages the house steward Shamrayev in a heated argument and decides to leave immediately. Nina lingers behind after the group leaves, and Konstantin shows up to give her a seagull that he has shot. Nina is confused and horrified at the gift. Konstantin sees Trigorin approaching, and leaves in a jealous fit. Nina asks Trigorin to tell her about the writers life. He replies that it is not an easy one. Nina says that she knows the life of an actress is not easy either, but she wants more than anything to be one. Trigorin sees the seagull that Konstantin has shot and muses on how he could use it as a subject for a short story: A young girl lives all her life on the shore of a lake. She loves the lake, like a seagull, and shes happy and free, like a seagull. But a man arrives by chance, and when he sees her, he destroys her, out of sheer boredom. Like this seagull. Arkadina calls for Trigorin and he leaves as she tells him that she has changed her mind and they will not be leaving immediately. Nina lingers behind, enthralled with Trigorins celebrity and modesty, and she gushes, My dream The Act III opens inside the estate, on the day when Arkadina and Trigorin have decided to depart. Between acts Konstantin attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head, but the bullet only grazed his skull. He spends the majority of Act III with his scalp heavily bandaged. Nina finds Trigorin eating breakfast and presents him with a medallion that proclaims her devotion to him using a line from one of Trigorins own books: If you ever need my life, come and take it. She retreats after begging for one last chance to see Trigorin before he leaves. Arkadina appears followed by Sorin, whose health has continued to deteriorate, Trigorin leaves to continue packing. There is a brief argument between Arkadina and Sorin, after which Sorin collapses in grief. He is helped off by Medvedenko. Konstantin enters and asks his mother to change his bandage. As she is doing this, Konstantin disparages Trigorin and there is another argument. When Trigorin reenters, Konstantin leaves in tears. Trigorin asks Arkadina if they can stay at the estate. She flatters and cajoles him until he agrees to return to Moscow. After she has left, Nina comes to say her final goodbye to Trigorin and to inform him that she is running away to become an actress, against her parents wishes. They kiss passionately and make plans to meet again in Moscow. In the final Act IV takes place during the winter two years later, in the drawing room that has been converted to Konstantins study. Masha has finally accepted Medvedenko marriage proposal and they have a child together, though Masha still nurses an unrequited love for Konstantin. Various characters discuss what has happened in the two years that have passed: Nina and Trigorin lived together in Moscow for a time until he abandoned her and went back to Arkadina. Nina never achieved any real success as an actress, and is currently on a tour of the provinces with a small theatre group. Konstantin has had some short stories published, but is increasingly depressed. Sorins health is failing, and the people at the estate have telegraphed for Arkadina to come for his final days. Most of the plays characters go to the drawing room to play a game of bingo. Konstantin does not join them, and spends this time working on a manuscript at his desk. After the group leaves to eat dinner, Konstantin hears someone at the back door. He is surprised to find Nina, who he invites inside. Nina tells Konstantin about her life over the last two years. She starts to compare herself to the seagull that Konstantin killed in Act II, then rejects that and says I am an actress. She tells him that she was forced to tour with a second-rate theatre company after the death of the child she had with Trigorin, but she seems to have a newfound confidence. Konstantin pleads with her to stay, but she is in such disarray that his pleading means nothing. She embraces Konstantin, and leaves. Despondent, Konstantin spends two minutes silently tearing up his manuscripts before leaving the study. The group re-enters and returns to the bingo game. There is a sudden gunshot from off-stage, and Dorn goes to investigate. He returns and takes Trigorin aside. Dorn tells Trigorin to somehow get Arkadina away, for Konstantin has just killed himself. The play share the unique Chekhovian mood, a pervasive melancholic tone that arises from the haplessness of the characters that seem destined either to wallow in self-pity or indifference or consume themselves in frustrated passion. In the play, with his special brand of 'slice of life realism, that Chekhov journeys to the outer limits of comedy, to a point in which its distinctness from quasitragic drame is blurred and at some points all but lost. The play has an inter-textual relationship with Shakespeares 'Hamlet. Arkadina and Konstantin quote lines from it before the play-within-a-play in the first act (and this device is itself used in Hamlet). There are many allusions to Shakespearean plot details as well. For instance, Treplyov seeks to win his mother back from the usurping older man Trigorin much as Hamlet tries to win Queen Gertrude back from his uncle Claudius. In The Seagull, a work that the author Anton Chekhov himself claimed contained 'five tons of love, is a play about a very human tendency to reject love that is freely given and seek it where it is withheld. Many of its characters are caught in a destructive, triangular relationship that evokes both pathos and humour. What the characters cannot successfully parry is the destructive force of time and space. An interesting mix of a life we plan to lead but by compulsion is force to withdraw from be it by fate or destiny playing its role in our seemingly meaningless lives.