Thursday, October 27, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: The Cherry Orchard


The Cherry Orchard
By Anton Chekhov
in a new version by Stephen Karam
Directed by Simon Godwin
Roundabout Theatre Company
through Dec. 4

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
It's Chekhov's masterpiece about a family on the edge of ruin on the eve of the Russian revolution. The family's home and their precious cherry orchard are about to be sold to pay their debts. That's the official description, but full disclosure: I am not a fan of Chekhov. I know, I am a theater critic, I am supposed to think he is brilliant, but let's just say that the only Chekhov I ever have enjoyed is Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, so you can take everything I say here with a grain of salt. Two things this Roundabout production had going for it were a new version by Stephen Karam, whose own play, the Tony-Award-winning The Humans is far better than anything Chekhov ever wrote, and this production's stars: Diane Lane, John Glover and Joel Grey. It's always worth seeing them in action.

What Are the Highlights?
Joel Grey is amusing as Firs, the family servant (though he sometimes is hard to hear -- sound design by Christopher Cronin). So is Tina Benko, who plays Charlotta, a governess who entertains a romantic future with him.

What Are the Lowlights?
OK. besides the fact that this is Chekhov? (Remember, grain of salt...)
This version didn't seem any more interesting than the original to me. If you don't already know the plot, it is a bit difficult to follow. Lane seems lost up on the stage as characters seem to be wandering around at times without direction from Simon Godwin. Three musicians join the production, sometimes at the front left side of the house, sometimes on stage. Mostly they are a distraction because of the music they play and their noticeable exits and entrances. At intermission during the two-hour, 30 minute show, one person was asking what the constant alarm sound had been -- she was referring to individual odd sounding notes being being played (Nico Muhly composes the music). 

There also is a modern edge to the set (designed by Scott Pask) and costumes (designed by Michael Krass), the meaning of which is lost. The cherry orchard is presented as bunches of some modern-looking branches with leaves that overhang (and note to designers, just once, if I have to see The Cherry Orchard so often, I would like to see an actual cherry orchard somewhere on stage. Just once. But it would be perfectly fine with me if no more theaters felt they needed to produce something by Chekhov on their stages. May I suggest The Humans, or Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike instead. Please?

More information:
The Cherry Orchard runs through Dec. 4 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets: roundabouttheatre.org.

Additional credits:

Diane Lane....Ranevskaya
Joel Grey.... Firs
Chuck Cooper.... Pischik
Tavi Gevinson.... Anya
John Glover.... Gaev
Celia Keenan-Bolger .... Varya
Harold Perrineau .... Lopakhin
Kyle Beltran..... Trofimov
Tina Benko ....Charlotta
Susannah Flood .....Dunyasha
Maurice Jones.... Yasha
Quinn Mattfeld.... Yepikhodov
Peter Bradbury.... Passer-by
Philip Kerr.... Station Master 
Lise Bruneau, Jacqueline Jarrold, Carl Hendrick Louis.... Ensemble

Donald Holder, Lighting Designer; Jonathan Goddard, Movement; John Miller , Music Coordinator; 
Paul Kieve, Magic Consultant; Kate Wilson, Vocal Coach; Thomas Schall, Fight Director; Christine Goldman Bagwell . Production Props.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- God's name taken in vain. A lot.


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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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