A cherry of a play


Artists’ Repertory Theatre takes liberties with Chekhov Kynna Groff Vanguard staff What does culture mean to you? It’s more than just an active ingredient in yogurt. Although it can be difficult to peg culture down with one universally accepted definition, it’s generally agreed upon that people who want to be considered cultured go to places and events which allow them to think symbolically and creatively, and involve learning a little about the humanities. This month, The Artist’s Repertory Theatre has just the thing if you’ve been feeling lately that your life could use a shot of culture.

Premiering on April 19 and running through May 22, The Artist’s Rep is putting on a new, avant-garde interpretation of what is Anton Chekhov’s last, and arguably most famous play, “The Cherry Orchard.”

Adapted by Richard Kramer and directed by Jon Kretzu, this new version of Chekhov’s classic story about a bourgeois Russian family whose estate is about to be foreclosed promises to be “ghost-like” and “ethereal” and “not a traditional treatment of this play.”

Kramer, who has been a writer for both stage and screen, was green-lighted by Artist’s Rep to adapt “The Cherry Orchard” as part of their Chekhov Project, in which four of his most famous plays were given new life. Although Kramer maintains the play’s prominent themes about the inevitable fall of the aristocracy and subsequent rise of the bourgeois, he has apparently taken quite a bit of liberty with the play’s character development and dialogue—even going so far as to add Chekhov’s ghost as a character in the play.

Since the play’s first performance in 1904, directors and adapters alike have faced the problem of how best to deal with the play’s inherent dualism. Though Chekhov wrote the play as a comedy and it includes many elements of farce, there is also an air of tragedy surrounding the relationships between many of the characters and the loss of the family’s home and destruction of their much beloved titular cherry orchard.

This doesn’t seem like it was an issue for Kramer and Kretzu’s adaptation, which they have said will be “dreamlike, vicious, funny, and tender.” According to Kretzu, “Chekhov’s plays have inspired every single writer since they were put on paper. They are simply life put on stage, and this version is a brilliant adaptation that speaks directly through him.”

The play begins on the eve of the return of Madame Ranevsky and her daughter Anya to their Russian estate, which they soon learn is going to be sold at auction to pay the mortgage. To them, as well as to a groups of family friends and the servants who work for the Ranevskys, this is unthinkable, and much of the play is then devoted to the characters trying to think of ways to save the house and the cherry orchard which meant so much to many of them. Unfortunately, due to the folly of many of the characters, neither the house nor the orchard can be saved, and the play closes with the son of a former serf buying the estate, and the sounds of the cherry trees being chopped down as the family leaves.

Suitable for high school and adult audiences, “The Cherry Orchard” deals with themes such as the effect that social change has on people, and the preconceptions people have based on their identities in society. It’s a play with a message that endures the passage of time, and offers its audience members a chance to expand their mind by considering things from a different perspective than their own. It basically oozes culture, so head to down to the Artists Rep this month, and gobble up some of the good stuff. We hear it goes great with yogurt. ?