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A CurtainUp Review
The Cherry Orchard
This is a vibrant, energetic, almost non-stop presentation. It's what we've come to expect from CTH, but not what most people associate with Chekhov.
Chekhov called The Cherry Orchard a comedy, though few people would classify it as such. Prefiguring the fall of Russia's class system, it's the story of Ranevskaya, a spendthrift gentlewoman who has returned to her Russian estate from a five-year sojourn in Paris. She is nearly penniless, though she refuses to admit it to herself. The family finances make the estate's sale inevitable and so Ranevskay throws a big party on the day when it's scheduled for auction. What she doesn't expect is that the buyer is Lophakin, a local businessman, who represents all the changes she and her equally spendthrift brother were too idle and self-absorbed to foresee. For Lophakin the Cherry orchard has no sentimental value. And so, as Ranevskaya prepares for a return to Paris, the orchard is chopped down to make way for a development of summer cottages. coincide with the orchard being chopped down.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem's production of this often revived play is luminous and bittersweet, with an excellent ensemble led by Earle Hyman (a master of comic relief) as Firs, Ranevksaya's 87-year-old manservant; Petronia Paley as Ranevskaya; and Wendell Pierce as Lopakhin. Pierce is at times reminiscent of a televangelist, with an almost hyperactive energy and a fiercely magnetic stage presence. Paley is a statuesque s Ranevskaya, with a nervous air that counteracts the solidity and pragmatism of her daughter Varya (Roslyn Ruff).
Troy Hourie has build an evocative set, with scrims, a raised platform in the middle of the stage which serves as a wall-less living room, and bare trees all around with cherry blossoms scattered over the stage. Jenny Mannis's costumes are somewhere between period and modern, but feel authentic to the play nonetheless. Director Christopher McElroen makes full use of the stage, keeping the action moving at a swift clip and keeping the character relationships clear in the large cast.
A Chekhov play can be a stilted, drawn-out affair, but CTH has found the life and humor in this classic and has wisely played them up, concentrating on the characters and their relationships more than the plot. Despite the tragic ending, this Cherry Orchard is almost heartwarming.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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