Sunday, January 28, 2024

Chekhov’s Seagull and Diva Dementia Center Stage in Charming Chayka

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival 


Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company From Belgium/Chile

Recommended for Ages 13+ 


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Chayka at the Chopin Theatre's main stage. This lovely solo show features one puppeteer with a life-sized, half body puppet that shares her feet and one arm. A teddy bear, a book, a scarf stand in for the other main characters in Chekhov’s play, The Seagull. And of course, there's a seagull. 

As Chayka, an aging diva with dementia makes her final appearance on stage as Chekhov’s Arkadina, the 4th wall is broken down, and the audience is privy to both the actress and the character in turn.  The puppetry is exquisite, as the young woman puppeteer and Chayka alternately dialogue, merge and split, and even swap places, in a dance of memories and forgetting. 

English subtitles are projected above, so it was easy to follow the plot and transcend any language barriers. 

On a minimalist, stripped down set, Chayka relives the glory days when she played a host of the younger Seagull characters, bemoans the lack of a lake, and finds her light. It's a poignant piece, and a bold choice. Puppet genre shows dealing with aging and endings are rare. 

Despite the melancholy subject, there's plenty of humor, and the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions, escalating to a set deconstructing, table flipping rage. In the past few years, I've seen both The Seagull and also Stupid F*#@ing Bird, Aaron Posner's irreverent, contemporary remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull. All 3 productions  explore the timeless tussle between young and old, past and present, in search of meaning. If you're a fan of creative puppeteering and particularly Chekhovian explorations of frustration and decline, make a point to experience Chayka. 

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, artist, and Mama to 2 amazing adults. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 


Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company


Chopin Theatre (mainstage), 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park

January 26-28

Three shows: Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.

60 minutes (English subtitles)

Ages 13 and up

Tickets: $30-$40

In the backstage of a theater, an aging actress named Chayka struggles to remember why she is there. A young woman arrives to remind her: tonight she must play the part of Arkadina in Chekhov’s The Seagull. As her memory fades, not knowing quite who she is nor the part she is meant to be playing, Chayka is determined at least to give this last performance. In her struggle and descent, reality and fiction intersect.


This multi-award winning production, told in a dreamlike style, is a duo performance for one actress and one puppet, and is the first piece from the Belgo-Chilean company Belova ~ Iacobelli. In 2012, the Chilean actress and stage director Tita Iacobelli met the Belgo-Russian puppeteer Natacha Belova in Santiago, Chile, at the La Rebelión de los Muñecos Festival. In 2015, again in Santiago, they created an experimental theater laboratory for contemporary puppet theater. When the two-month experience was over, they decided to develop a play together. Chayka was the first production, created in June 2018 in Santiago de Chile, followed In September 2021, by LOCO at the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles in Belgium. In October 2022, the performance Sisypholia, by Natacha Belova co-directed with Dorian Chavez, was presented at the International Biennial of Living Arts Toulouse Occitanie in France.

Everything you need to know about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival January 18-28, 2024

January in Chicago isn't all dreary, cold, and grey. Puppet fest is back to put some color and joy into your January. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've covered the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival every year since it's inception. We're elated that they're now an annual fest instead of every other year, and we'll be out to review as much of the fest as possible once again in 2024. Check out the schedule below to save the dates. There'll be plentiful family friendly and adult puppet fun and we'll have the scoop right here. 

Tickets are now on sale for the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, the largest of its kind in North America, returning January 18-28, 2024, at venues large and small throughout the city. 

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the largest event dedicated to the art form in North America. In the heart of winter, the Festival spans 11 days and dozens of Chicago venues, sharing 100+ puppetry activities with 14,000+ guests. The festival includes performances, the Free Neighborhood Tour, a Puppet Hub open throughout the festival on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building, a symposium, the Catapult Artist Intensive, workshops, and more. 

Visit for tickets and information about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, and sign up for the festival’s e-news.

Follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest.

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