Oscar E Moore

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The Cherry Orchard – Spectacularly reinvented at Classic Stage Company

December 5th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

How incredibly exciting it is to want to race home and write a review of a show that you have just seen, to spread the word at how astounding it is.  Such is the case with this reinvented, amusing and poignant production of Anton Chekhov’s tragicomic THE CHERRY ORCHARD superbly directed by Andrei Belgrader with a hint of Ingmar Bergman and Fellini and a sparkling new translation by John Christopher Jones that infuses it with renewed vigor through December 30th only.  Put this show high on your Holiday shopping list.

Who needs to see another long, tedious, yawn inducing production of The Cherry Orchard?  Not the Classic Stage Company.   This production will snap you to attention from the very beginning.  Never underestimate the ingenuity, daring and creativity of the CSC.  Production after production amazes.  And The Cherry Orchard is one of its finest.

Scenic designer Santo Loquasto has hidden his surprise of a nursery set behind three gossamer curtains that at first seem to suffocate the audience using up the entire acting arena.  When the curtains are drawn the magic begins.  It’s a subtle effect.  In sneaks up on you that we are witnessing the lives of these characters, perhaps as a one ring circus as the round stage suggests with its miniature set pieces and rocking horse and trains all in a ghostlike ashen white palette where Madame Ranevskaya – a superb Dianne Wiest – is returning after having lived in Paris to her homeland and beloved cherry orchard that is to be sold at auction to pay off her debts.

The maid Dunyasha (Elisabeth Waterson) dressed like a Russian doll and Epikhodov – an amazing Michael Urie – Mister Disaster – a klutzy clown-like young man with his unmatched red socks further the circus atmosphere which reaches its peak in Act II as Charlotta (Roberta Maxwell) looking very much the ringmaster does card tricks and some ventriloquism.  Ms. Maxwell has some odd bits of business in the first act with the audience that at first seems to distract but it all makes sense later on.  It’s an absolutely compelling and captivating concept that surrounds this tragic story.

A charismatic John Turturro as Lopakhin who was once a peasant and has now made lots of money has a solution that Ranevskaya won’t be bothered with.  If you know of any farmers out at the Eastern end of Long Island who have been forced to sell their valuable family land for some land developers who want to subdivide, build, sell and make millions Mr. Turturro has nailed the portrayal of such a character.  Late in Act II he has a touching and heartbreaking proposal scene with the older daughter Varya (a strong and radiant Juliet Rylance) that is another brilliant directorial touch.

As stubborn as Ranevskaya is to resist change, the perennial student Trofimov (a fiery Josh Hamilton) embraces it as their only salvation.  Her brother Gaev (a debonair Daniel Davis) gives in; eventually obtaining a job. The always looking for a loan Pischik (a fine Ken Cheesman), Anya the young daughter (a fragile Katherine Waterson), Fiers the mumbling dedicated old servant (a remarkable Alvin Epstein) and Yasha (a seductive Slate Holmgren) a young, egotistical manservant who enjoys champagne and his own image make for a perfect cast which also includes – for the record – Michael Wieser, Ben Diskant and Bentley an adorable well mannered dog.

Beautiful and imaginative costumes by Marco Piemontese, atmospheric lighting by James F. Ingalls, the fantastic original music and sound design by Christian Frederickson & Ryan Rumery and choreography by Orlando Pabotoy make this Cherry Orchard an unforgettable theatrical experience.


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