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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" at the American Airlines Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" at the American Airlines Theatre

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Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager
Steve Dow, Chief Administrative Officer


Diane Lane, Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Harold Perrineau
Joel Grey

With an ensemble of eleven actors

The Cherry Orchard
(The Cherry Orchard Website)

By Anton Chekhov
A New Version by Stephen Karam
Directed by Simon Godwin

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

Set Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Christopher Cronin
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Movement: Jonathan Goddard
Original Music: Nico Muhly
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Literal Translation: Allison Horsley
Magic Consultant: Paul Kieve
Vocal Coach: Kate Wilson
Fight Consultant: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
“The Cherry orchard” General Manager: Denise Cooper
Director of Marketing & Audience Dvpt.: Robert Sweibel
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Adams Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Press: Polk & Co.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 19, 2016 Matinee

The most beloved play by Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard, visits the Russian estate of a middle-aged brother and sister, who have fallen behind in mortgage payments, refusing to sell off sections of land or their entire estate, while neighbors plot financial windfall and family play in costumes with music. Or, that’s the best the current Broadway audience might glean from this misconceived adaptation by Stephen Karam, directed by Simon Godwin. Importing Diane Lane, a celebrity screen and television actress, for the lead role as Ranevskaya, the returning landowner, who has been off recovering from a family tragedy, does not transfer to a winning production. Ms. Lane is a brilliant actress and was fully in the persona of Chekhov’s conflicted and overwhelmed lead, exuding ebullience and angst, but, as the Roundabout Theatre Company notes, this version of the play “is refracted through the sensibilities of 21st Century America”. That is, the serfs are called slaves, a festive party for friends and family includes hip-hop styled dancing, and Michael Krass’ costumes morph from turn of the 20th Century Russia to 2016 New York. An ambiance of ennui filled the cavernous American Airlines Theatre, except when the stunning, traveling musicians, on violin, clarinet, and percussion, took center stage in period, party costume to enhance the dramatic imagery.

As if to clarify the essential cast of twelve, the Roundabout inserted head shots and Russian names of family, staff, and guests. Yet, in the dark rows, one could only try to imagine the interconnecting roles, as Scott Pask’s scenery, too, was minimal and stark, with the cherry orchard signified by low-hung mobiles of pink oval shapes. Ranevskaya’s remaining family, in addition to brother, Gaev (an excellent John Glover), and her deceased young son, whose death had driven her away from the estate that housed his nursery, until her grand entrance in act one, consists of Anya (a wistful Tavi Gevinson), her grown daughter, and Varya (a fine Celia Keenan-Bolger), her adopted daughter. The lead staff is the magnetic, master actor, Joel Grey, as Firs, a servant, who’s joined by Yepikhodov (an understated Quinn Mattfeld), a bookkeeper, Dunyasha (a romantic Susannah Flood), a maid, Yasha (a strongminded Maurice Jones), a young servant, and Charlotta Ivanova (a frenetic Tina Benko), a governess. The three “guests” are Lopakhin (a magnetic Harold Perrineau), a businessman and son of a “slave”, who outbids everyone at the auction for Ranevskaya and Gaev’s estate, Simeonov-Pischik (a needy, dependent Chuck Cooper), a landowner, and Trofimov (a sophisticated Kyle Beltran), a student. One additional character of note, Peter Bradbury, as a rowdy vagrant on the road, just added more anxiety to the deeply anxious brood and their cohorts. In this Karam version, it was almost impossible to keep the cast’s roles in focus, as the action and dialogue were in such enigmatic disarray.

Within this talented cast, that seemed trapped in a foggy stage nightmare, Mr. Grey was a delight. In fact, he was greeted with applause on arrival. If Mr. Karam wanted to create a new version of this play, he might have renamed a synopsized, rewritten dialogue. I would have put Mr. Grey front and center, telling his story of decades-long servitude and relationships within this clan and region. But, to call the play by Chekhov’s title is to lure in audiences that look forward to the original play, guided by its playwright. Do conductors revise concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich? That would drive audiences to operatic madness. Chekhov’s own words seemed unrecognizable here, with Lopakhin’s skirt-chasing, Trofimov’s uncontained desire, and Gaev’s love of leisure and his long fur coat, enacted like loose cannons exploding amidst silver carafes, goblets of vodka, and strolling music-makers. To cap off today’s matinee, a thin, deeply annoying alarm was evident in the theater throughout the second act. It must have been located backstage or on an audience device, and the play should have been briefly paused the moment it began. Lighting and sound design seemed insignificant this time.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at