A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 92: The Cherry Orchard

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The Cherry Orchard
At Historic Park-McCullough in North Bennington, VT
July 31 – August 9

Most remarkable in Living Room Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov on Friday night was a natural sounding translation of the play – something I have rarely heard. This was accomplished by the young actress who also played Anya, along with Randolyn Zinn. They converted this recalcitrant script into believable American English, in itself a significant accomplishment. Everything about the evening was determined by this. Polina Ionina, our Anya, also gave the most realistic and detailed performance of the evening – no exaggeration, no disconnected moves. The production itself was an adventure. Moving in and out of the carriage house, it kept a constant dialogue with its environment, the oldness of the structure itself in particular. The house is all in this play, a womb, a grave. This was clearly, not sentimentally, played. Also remarkable was Allen McCullough’s performance of Gayev. He moved through the script dazed, as if he did not hear reality, not trying not to hear reality, but that he really did not hear it. His speech was constantly quieted. He seemed on the verge of being able to say what he thought, but always there came an immediate disconnect. Stella Adler reminds us that Chekhov did not write his plays for star actors, but for those performers we call character actors. This implies that individual character and how well it is imagined makes separation inevitable. The production got this.

Ken Forman as Lopakin gave us quite the most sympathetic reading of this character I have seen. His refusal, probably inability, at the end of the play to propose to Varya, the adopted daughter of the household, is almost a cruel stroke laid upon us by Chekhov. Almost but not quite, because Rocky Friedman Vargas, seemed separated from him and everyone else in the play. Her stiff isolation was palpable. Trofimov, a student, played by Michael Broadhurst, was a believable Bolshevik, and won young Anya’s affection. What will become of them is far from certain.

In short, The Cherry Orchard left me hanging, which is exactly what it should do. Almost all is lost, but not all. And the production got this clearly.
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