Monday, December 05, 2011

Review: The Cherry Orchard at CSC

Earlier this season, John Turturro directed the mostly forgettable Relatively Speaking on Broadway, but there is nothing forgettable about his performance as Lopakhin in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the Classic Stage Company. There is a moment when he breaks out in manic dance alone that perfectly captures Lopakhin, forever socially awkward.

For those unfamiliar with the play, a widow, Ranevskaya (an equally captivating Dianne Wiest), returns to her home in Russia after being away for years in France. She has fallen into debt and is soon to lose her estate and cherry orchard in an auction. Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant from poor beginnings, tries to convince her to cut down the cherry orchard and divide the land into lots to be leased out for summer cottages.

Translated by John Christopher Jones and directed by Andrei Belgrader, this Cherry Orchard is fast and funny, accessible and modern, clocking in at only two hours and 15 minutes including intermission. Though it highlights the comedic elements (Chechov did intend the play as a comedy), the suffering of the characters is not lost, thanks to some fine performances. Take Juliet Rylance, who plays Ranevskaya's daughter and housekeeper Varya. Rylance makes Varya's longing for Lopakhin, who everyone says she should marry though he never asks, palpable. Alvin Epstein as the old footman Fiers perhaps most exemplifies the dualities of the play--the comedy and heartbreak--as he shuffles across the stage muttering to himself.

The one misstep is the decision to break the fourth wall (usually done by Carlotta, the governess, played by Roberta Maxwell). It doesn't add anything to the production, which is already intimate enough without having to make the audience a part of it.

Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

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