(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 11/14.)
In a sense, Chekhov had to invent his own peculiar method—"peculiar" meaning both distinctly odd as well as distinctively individual—that gives his work its lasting value. He clearly understood the rules of conventional playwriting, but, as his early play Ivanov (1887) demonstrates, he instinctively resisted obeying them. Ibsen, the playwright of highest stature in the period just before Chekhov, had found ways to adhere to the French "well-made play" form while infusing it with deeper psychology and higher meaning. Chekhov, in contrast, had to fragment it. In The Seagull and the three other masterpieces that followed it, he built mosaics of minute detail, under which the form's rigid outlines are only dimly glimpsed, like some half-buried memory, splintered and ironized beyond recall.