Trees Bloom in Lerner
Written by Bwog Staff
Theatre Theorizer Alex Katz wants you to pause your video of Downton Abbey, stop making your “Bring Arrested Development Back” signs, and go see an original play about a wealthy family who lost everything and the one (adopted) son who had no choice but to destroy their lives for good. Here’s his take on CUPlayers’ The Cherry Orchard, which finishes its run tonight at 8:00pm in the Lerner Black Box.
CU Players’ The Cherry Orchard is a mesmerizing take on Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece. Chronicling the sale of a Russian aristocratic mansion and surrounding land, Chekhov foreshadows the rise of the lower class and increasing industrialization of Europe – a facet of the play by Kyle Radler, the show’s director. Radler’s direction juxtaposes the old world of the cherry orchard with a new world represented by Chuck Robert’s portrayal of the upwardly mobile Lopakhin.
While traditional productions of Chekhov fill the stage with props and set pieces, Radler’s production is much more bare. On view throughout the play is a large cross section of the doomed house complete with a window that should look down on the Cherry Orchard. Completely whited out, the window forces the viewer to create their own orchard below. Radler has effectively asked the audience to look deeper into the play’s psychological world. By including and abstracting the dance scene at the beginning of act three, Radler along with his choreographer Laura Quinton create clear allusions to the inner lives of Chekhov’s characters.
These characters are portrayed by a multitude of dedicated actors. Tessa Slovis gives a poignant performance as the grief stricken Luibov. Chuck Roberts’ Lopakhin elicited a sense of ease and appeal that is often lacking in other portrayals. Other standouts in the cast were Gerard Ramm for his particularly comedic Gaev and Mel Cohen for her saintly Varya. The most striking element in the show, however, was the clash of old and new culture visible throughout in the set, costumes, sound design, and performances. For example, Lopahkin carried an iPhone. Other, more subtle, references also become apparent over the course of the show. For instance, directors have often debated Chekhov’s direction to include the sound of a string breaking. For Radler this marked a pivotal moment of the play in which the wealthy characters are threatened by a modern beggar. And as such the string breaking became a mix of industrial and natural sounds that effectively placed the audience on edge, as Chekhov intended one hundred years ago.
Dignified Spectacles via Wikimedia Commons