The first performance of The Seagull is one of the legendary disasters of the theater. The audience booed — but, perhaps more tragically for Chekhov, they laughed, and they laughed in the wrong places. They laughed at the young writer Treplyov’s symbolist play with which the story opens and at the pretensions of the younger characters.
The Philip addressed in the title is Philip Louis Friedman (Jason Schwartzman). He’s an author – his second book has just come out, after his first received significant acclaim. His mentor is Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), a famous but reclusive, long-in-the-tooth writer who had tremendous success himself decades prior, but now spends most of his time playing the role of The Great Author, rather than actually writing.