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Review: The Orchard at the Baryshnikov Arts Center Explores the Explosive Dynamics of Life, Liberty, & Freedom

This modern interpretation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard is playing now through July 3, 2022.

Review: The Orchard at the Baryshnikov Arts Center Explores the Explosive Dynamics of Life, Liberty, & Freedom

Review: The Orchard at the Baryshnikov Arts Center Explores the Explosive Dynamics of Life, Liberty, & Freedom

What impact does social class have on the relationships we forge with other people? And what becomes of those relationships when forces beyond our control take effect? These are a few of the many questions examined inThe Orchard, a modernized, high-tech adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Shown at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the cast is led by the man/myth/legend himself, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the striking Jessica Hecht.

At first blush, the set and production appeared modest enough-grey, muted tones were accented with icy blue props and decorations. But as the actors took the stage, audience goers were arrested by a gigantic, transparent digital screen. The production used this screen throughout the show to feature live text, video, and photography of the actors in real time to add context to every scene. These were captured by a large robot, which functioned as a camera and several other props across scenes. While initially disorienting, you come to realize that this feeling is intentional, helping you feel the emotional toll the central family is experiencing.

The Orchard tells the story of a deeply fractured family on the verge of losing their beloved home and estate, and examines the choices they make under extreme social and relational circumstances. As the dysfunctional matriarch Ranevskaya, Jessica Hecht is a revelation-it's no surprise that her acting is superb, but it was her easy connection to the other actors and the space itself that made her sparkle. Her concered brother Gaev, played masterfully by Mark Nelson, was a terrific foil for the power-hungry servant-turned-property owner, Lopakhin, played frighteningly by Nael Nacer.

As Anton Chekhov and Firs, Mikhail Baryshnivok thread the needle so elegantly, weaving the entire story together with grace. His balletic quality isn't just about his movement; it's in the way he speaks, the way he looks out to the audience, and even the way he breathes. Watching him felt like a privilege.

Overall, the pacing of the show was a bit uneven-it felt slow for the first hour or so, but eventually picked up. The added multimedia elements were unique and brought exciting dynamics to the show, but at times, felt overwhelming.

Regardless, you should not miss the chance to see this one-of-a-kind show. The Orchard plays now through July 3, 2022.

Photo Credit: Pavel Antonov



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