BWW Review: Actors' Shakespeare Project's THE CHERRY ORCHARD Bears Fruit
The Cherry Orchard
Written by Anton Chekhov, Translated by Melia Bensussen & The Cherry Orchard company, Directed by Melia Bensussen; Scenic Designer, Cristina Todesco; Lighting Designer, John Malinowski; Costume Designer, Nancy Leary; Sound Designer/Composer, Arshan Gailus; Properties Designer, Ian Thorsell; Stage Manager, Adele Nadine Traub; Production Manager, Deb Sullivan
Performances through March 9 by Actors' Shakespeare Project at The Dane Estate at Pine Manor College, 400 Heath Street, Chestnut Hill, MA; Box Office 866-811-4111 or www.actorsshakespeareproject.org
It is a melancholy truth that everything comes to an end in this world, but Anton Chekhov tempers the message with lyrical prose, interwoven with absurdity, in The Cherry Orchard, his last play written as he was dying. Featuring a new translation by Director Melia Bensussen and the company, Actors' Shakespeare Project mounts a lighter, accessible version in Founder's Hall at The Dane Estate at Pine Manor College in Brookline. Performing in the round in this stately, dramatic setting, the actors inhabit space and time in a way that allows their characters to emerge naturally, enhanced by the proximity of their audience.
Chekhov's characters are a pleasant bunch, albeit with their individual foibles, and there isn't one that you'd want to exclude from the party. In A.S.P.'s ensemble of equals, Bensussen drives home the point that all are experiencing the impact of the dire circumstances facing Madame Ranyevskaya (Marya Lowry). As the matriarch, she may be the focal point, but the stories of the antagonist Lopakhin, her adopted daughter Varya, her younger daughter Anya and Trofimov the tutor, and even the housemaid Dunyasha and her suitors, are as vital to the gestalt of the play.
Returning from her five-year long retreat to Paris following the deaths of her husband and young son, Ranyevskaya must face the impending auction of the family estate, including the beloved cherry orchard, to pay off debts. She and her talkative brother Gaev (Richard Snee) fret and hope for a miracle, yet refuse to accept the practical solution, a business deal offered by Lopakhin (Steve Barkhimer). Stuck in the past and unwilling to destroy the beautiful but unproductive orchard, she continues to spend as though she has still has money, even granting a loan to her impoverished neighbor Pishchik (Jake Berger). Meanwhile, Trofimov (Danny Bryck) sees the future and tries to open Ranyevskaya's eyes to the truth, of the changes coming to a post-revolutionary Russia. Anya (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan) is wide-eyed and optimistic, also attempting to gently guide her mother toward a new way of life.
In spite of the wolf being at the door, life goes on with affairs of the heart often taking center stage. Varya (Marianna Bassham) is in love with Lopakhin who seems to care for her, as well, but just never gets around to acting on it. Dramatic and flirtatious, Dunyasha (Esme Allen) flits between the clumsy, yet earnest, Yepikhodov (Gabe Graetz) and Yasha (Mac Young), the mistress' elusive, dashing footman. Charlotta the governess (Sarah Newhouse) entertains with magic tricks and Fiers (Arthur Waldstein), the very elderly servant, tries to maintain some semblance of order and civility. Perhaps more than anyone or anything else, Fiers represents the past and present of not only the estate, but Russia, as well.