The Cherry Orchard

I came very close to missing out on Maly Drama Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard last night at BAM. Months ago, I had set a strict limit for myself: I did not have the time nor the resources to see everything I wanted to see in the Winter/Spring season. I would have to brutally edit my choices. The Cherry Orchard did not make the cut. Besides, hadn’t I seen it already and wasn’t it depressing anyhow? I purchased my subscription, but something was not sitting quite right. I discovered it was Uncle Vanya I had seen, not The Cherry Orchard. The desire to experience theater outside of my usual interests ate at me. The inevitable happened: I phoned BAM and a kind woman in the box office helped me add it to my subscription. Cultural disaster averted — and about last night: I am so glad I followed my instinct to see the play. The actors (under the direction of Lev Dodin) were based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and performed in their native language. While surtitles almost inevitably cause me to miss some of the action, the opportunity to hear Anton Chekhov’s words in Russian more than made up for it. I often have trouble caring much for the aristocracy in plays that take place during the rise of the bourgeoisie, but the subtle humor and clever staging reeled me in. I cared, because I could see just how shocking this change would have been for Lyubov Ranevskaya (Ksenia Rappoport was convincing in the role) and her family, and their utter denial pained me (when it wan’t making me laugh.) Utilizing the entire theater was brilliant. It made me feel a real part of the action, making me more vested in the fates of the characters. The faded vintage film of happier times in the cherry orchard helped me feel their sense of loss. I may not be part of the nobility, but even I can relate to the loss of a home and time and place that I loved. Danila Kozlovskiy was powerful as the merchant Lopakhin. He was already pretty obviously doing things his way. I am not sure his belting out the tune My Way was really necessary — but it was probably hard to resist including it. It definitely got the chuckle it was aiming for, but I found it broke the spell of the time and place.

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