Once again Anton Chekhov’s famous cherry orchard is on the auction block in a warm hearted, intelligently conceived and movingly performed production at the Pearl Theater. Capturing the humor, as well as the pathos of its disparate characters and situations, the Pearl repertory company does a fine job in presenting both The Cherry Orchard’s broad vaudevillian aspects, as Chekhov wished, and the tragedy that the audience has come to expect.
In this, the ultimate play of Russia’s class struggle at the end of the 19th Century, the members of the Russian nobility have begun to lose their power and wealth, but they cannot part with the belief in their inherent superiority. Embodying both the arrogance and patronizing condescension of the “caring” noble class, Joanna Camp’s Ranevskaya drifts through life in a self protecting haze of unreality. With barely a thought, she gives a bag full of gold coins to a beggar even when she hasn’t the funds to feed her servants, and knows that, barring a miracle, she will be dispossessed from her family’s estate in a matter of days. Ms. Camp beautifully captures this woman/child so sure in the solidity of her social status that she makes no attempt to control or affect her fate.
Representing the up and coming peasants is Dan Daily’s Lopachin, a self made rich man who has both loved and detested Ranevskaya since childhood. His admiration for her beauty, charm and graciousness is more than offset by his hatred of her snobbery and fecklessness. And so, The Cherry Orchard is about the changing of the guard. Lopachin plays with the family as a cat plays with a mouse and Dan Daily, in a rather subdued yet forceful performance as “the country boy” turned war lord, quickly and clearly gets the point across that he’s in charge. In other fine performances, Rachel Botchan plays a luminous Anya, Ranevskaya’s daughter. John Wylie is very funny as the comic, Freers, an elderly servant who is determined to remain a surf, and Arnie Burton as Trofimov, the perpetual student, who is very good at giving speeches about the rights of man, but very poor at becoming a man.
Director Joseph Hardy has made every attempt to find the humor and humanity in Chekhov’s thought provoking play. Irene V. Hatch is to be commended for her beautiful costume designs that reflect each character’s social status and personality; enhancing the audiences’ understanding of each player’s role. Historically, The Cherry Orchard preceded the Russian Revolution, yet all the signs for revolt are present within the scenes of Chekhov’s visionary play.
The Pearl Theater has done itself proud in this accessible and lovely Cherry Orchard. Just the thought of those beautiful white flowering trees (given 4 stars in all the tour books) makes me long for the spring, as we wait for another winter storm to hit NYC.
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov