EDITOR’S NOTE: Although this play was canceled due to the March 2020 shelter-in-place order, Town Hall Theatre has made a video of the performance available for home viewing online through April 2020. Click here to find out how to watch ‘The Cherry Orchard’ online.
I was fortunate to visit Town Hall Theater in Lafayette to see the masterpiece “The Cherry Orchard,” Anton Chekhov’s last play.
Written one year before his death in 1904 at age 44, it is considered as one of his four world-renowned works. This play continues through Saturday, March 21, in the historic theater at 3535 School St.
Chekhov is one of the most prominent of Russian playwrights and one of the greatest writers of short fiction stories in history. Along with Henrik Ibsen, Leo Tolstoy and August Strindberg, Chekhov is a proponent of the “realism” movement – which sought to bring greater fidelity and real-life convergence into every aspect of theater. In other words, he supported the concept that modern theater should emulate human behavior in real life as realistically as possible on stage.
His plays created a road to what’s called common sense and reality acting in modern day theater, a reality that has been reinforced by Konstantin Stanislavski when he revived the original production of “Seagull” through his Moscow Art Theater. Stanislavski laid claim to teaching actors a process brought to life by Chekhov’s “theater of mood,” which became known as the “Stanislavski Method.”
“The Cherry Orchard” revolves around a Russian family and their distress over the fear of the family estate being sold at auction to pay a mortgage debt. Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya (Sarah Ruby) has just returned to her Russian aristocratic family’s estate, fearing the auction but hoping that some members of her extended family will rescue the property from foreclosure. This commanding upper-class woman exhibits the pride of the old Russian aristocracy who have fallen on difficult financial times, caused in large part on their inability to understand the financial or business matters facing them.
Yermolai Lopakhin (Ted V. Blgornia) is a successful merchant, probably the wealthiest of all the guests in the home at this time. He was raised on the property and was likely the child of a member of the lowest class in society at that time: the serfs. He is knowledgeable as to the necessity of negotiation and compromise and suggests that the madame eliminate the beautiful orchard acreage surrounding the family home and build rental properties on it to fund the preservation of the estate and the family’s lifestyle. However, that beautiful cherry orchard is probably the most significant factor in this family’s joint memories of the property.
The play was originally designed as a comedy exhibiting human folly, but it eventually was considered as more a tragedy. In some ways, it is similar to our own national political and economic situation because it demonstrates the difficulties of living in a society with such great wealth disparities.
The 13 wonderful cast members present a delightfully comic and yet serious portrait of how the situation promises to tear the family apart and cast its family members to the winds of fortune. Director Susan Evans has immersed this story with actors of unique skill, suitably fit to validate the caricature and strategic story values demonstrated in this humorous, yet serious tale.
Lillana Duque Pineiro’s set is quite attractive and effective, and the costumes by Elizabeth Flaherty are perfectly suited to the story and its characters.
The play runs 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 21. Tickets are $25-$30, with discounts for seniors and youth.
For more information, visit townhalltheatre.com or call 925-283-1557.