In Anton Chekov’s tragic-comedy THE CHERRY ORCHARD aristocratic spendthrift Madame Ranevskaya (a carefree albeit uncomfortable Diane Lane) returns from Paris jilted by her lover only to face foreclosure and some rather large unwanted changes to her lifestyle.
Her beloved cherry orchard and home are to be sold at auction to pay off her debts, which continue to mount. She resists change. If only the Roundabout Theatre Company had followed suit.
A blight has befallen this ill-conceived cherry orchard represented by a grouping of Calder-like mobiles (set design: Scott Pask) hovering over this classic play like a series of modern day sabotaging vultures. Confusion reigns. Actors do not connect with one another. Running hither and thither. Trying to escape?
Why fiddle with Chekov? There is no need for a New Version (as opposed to adaptation) by playwright Stephen Karam that meanders all over the place at the American Airlines Theatre. Unclear. Tedious. And yawn inducing.
With a trio of live musicians. Outlandish costumes (Michael Krass) that morph from period to modern in the course of two acts – the second of which is worse by far than the first.
At the performance I suffered through there was a continuous alarm like sound from backstage that was more disconcerting than the multiracial cast which brings slavery into the forefront resulting in a tribal-like dance of celebration when Lopakhin (Harold Perrineau) a successful businessman buys the property so that he can sub-divide it for summer homes.
And then there is Joel Grey as Firs – the aged, steadfast and loyal servant. When he first scampers onto the stage he stops dead center – and awaits – and waits – and finally gets – entrance applause. This really got everything off on the wrong foot.
John Glover as Gaev, Madame’s brother, over emotes in the extreme. Her two daughters the elder adopted one Varya (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Anya (Tavi Gevinson) are there reminding us of past performances.
Chuck Cooper (Pischik) a neighbor always looking for a handout from the too willing Madame Ranevskaya appears to be auditioning for the genie in Aladdin. Tina Benko an overly energetic Charlotta – a governess who does card tricks supplies other distractions as well. The maid – a klutzy Susannah Flood annoys. The casting by Jim Carnahan with I assume the approval of British director Simon Godwin is bizarre.
However, Kyle Beltran (Trofimov – a student) is grounded, honest and out of place in this entourage of characters. As is Quinn Mattfeld – Mr. Misfortune – strumming his guitar and wearing a chicken costume at the musical chairs party scene straight out of Cirque du Soleil. Through December 4th.
I think it might be interesting to leave you with the Lew Brown lyrics to the song “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”
Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious; it’s too mysterious
You work, you save, you worry so
But you can’t take your dough when you go, go, go
So keep repeating it’s the berries
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh at it all
OR as the wonderfully gifted artist Mary Engelbreit put it “Life is Just a Chair of Bowlies”
Photos: Joan Marcus
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