Northwestern University does a splendid job with Chekhov’s classic The Cherry Orchard. There’s a lot of humor infused in the characters of this eccentric, wealthy family, who’s on the brink of financial disaster and must choose to either gain some needed cash by selling their prized orchard and allowing it to be developed into cottages for middle class vacationers to use or to lose it all through inaction. The horrors of such a development upset the matriarch. She simply cannot allow such a change to her sacred orchard, to her familial land, the setting of her idyllic memories. Even if it means losing the orchard she wants her memories preserved like naturalists with their dead butterflies pinned inside a shadow box.
What’s the alternative, you ask? The other option is to allow the entire estate to be auctioned off. Practical folks may think it’s better to sacrifice the orchard and keep some of the estate. Isn’t that better than losing all?
Well, the central family consisting of a mother who grew up in the home, her brother, her daughter, and her adoptive daughter, who manages the estate, along with various hangers on, just can’t bring themselves to envision the solution of allowing the new middle class to tramp around their once glorious cherry orchard.
This production featured strong acting with performers who knew how to make the most of Chekhov’s irony and wit. The costumes and minimal set let the story take precedence. I really loved the Russian folk music.
The script has some updated, but not too modern, references and quips. Some worked, others didn’t. Why mess with a master though? I do want to reread the original play because my interpretation of the characters and their response to their money problems didn’t quite jive with this production. But that’s to be expected. There are plenty of ways to look at these people.
A minor criticism would be that in general, while good, the male performers weren’t as convincing as their female counterparts at conveying age. For some reason the mother truly seemed to be middle-aged, while the men who were her contemporaries or older, seemed like young people playing a part. But that’s a small criticism.
If you’re near Evanston, Illinois, check out The Cherry Orchard next weekend.