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Thoroughly modern Chekhov, minus the depth in 'Possum Carcass'

This modernized take on 'The Seagull' is a bird-brained effort

Whatever notion may have prompted playwright David Bucci to switch species for the title of “Possum Carcass,” his modernized take on “The Seagull” is a dim proposition.

Despite a decade of workshop incubation, the drama’s debut staging at Theatre of NOTE needs more than a wing and a prayer to take flight.

Although it dutifully mirrors Chekhov’s plot in the soaring ambitions and earthbound struggles of present-day artistic types, what dooms this six-character reduction is its systematic abandonment of the subtextual layers that make the original so compelling.

Instead of people unfurling their rich psychological plumage in naturalistic exchanges that say something real about how human beings are with one another, we get obsessive quirks such as cough syrup guzzling, collecting action figures and marsupial murder — fun-house distortions that sap the resonance from Chekhovian character traits.  

Leading the way in this diminished capacity is the play’s updated version of the self-destructive fledgling writer, Conrad (Kjai Block), who seemingly studied nuance at the Jack Black school of acting.

Though his lovesick mating call goes unheeded by Nadia Marina’s ditzy waitress/wannabe actress Nina, Conrad’s emotional goose is really cooked by his mother (Lauren Letherer), a preening soap opera diva who swoops into town with her feckless consort (Jonathon Lamer) in tow.

Now that playwright Bucci has announced that he is turning from theater to pursue his greater passion for music, it’s hard to imagine a more validating swan song.

“Possum Carcass,” Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 10. $25. (323) 856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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