*** Recommended *** Robert Falls has assembled a stellar cast for the Goodman Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard. Although the story is about the Russian aristocracy in denial, Chekhov said it was a comedy (although I’ve always thought the story was tragic), so this cast played it for laughs and they got them. I thought everything – costumes, set, et al – was just about perfect, but I’m still not a Chekhov fan. By the way, is the term ‘Russian comedy’ actually an oxymoron? 3 ½ Spotlights
In classic Russian novels like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenna, and Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, the characters often use 42 words to express a sentiment that could be said in 4, while the brooding, depressed characters consistently indulge in inexplicable and/or incomprehensible behavior. Anton Chekov’s characters fit right into that Russian norm.
After five years in Paris with a lover – five years (?) – Lyubov Ranevskaya (Kate Fry) is returning to the estate – and the cherry orchard – she loves. Her daughter, Anya (Raven Whitley), who traveled to Paris when she heard that her mother had attempted suicide, her governess, Charlotta (Janet Ulrich Brooks), and Yasha (Felipe Carrasco), a servant who was with Lyubov in Paris, are also returning.
Eagerly awaiting their arrival are Lyubov’s brother Leonid Gayev (Christopher Donahue), a nervous talker who uses billiard moves to illustrate his conversations; her adopted daughter, Varya (Alejandra Escalante), who acts as housekeeper on the estate; Yermolai Lopakhin (Kareem Bandealy), a wealthy merchant and son of a former serf; a neighbor, Boris Simyonov-Pishchik (Matt DeCaro), who is always trying to borrow money; Semyon Yepikhodov (Will Allen), a bookkeeper who thinks he’s in love with the maid, Dunyasha (Amanda Drinkall), who rebuffs him at every turn and 87-year-old Firs (Francis Guinan), the butler.
Mortgaged to the hilt, the estate is scheduled to be auctioned off in August. Lopakhin has a plan to save the estate, but Lyubov won’t hear him. As she rhapsodizes about the beauty of the cherry orchard, Petya Trofimov (Stephan Cefalu), who was tutor to her son, Grisha, who drowned five years ago, confronts her, causing an epic meltdown.
Anya and Varya are aware of their mother’s financial woes but they can’t stop her from spending money whether she has it or not, sometimes giving away her last coins. The night before the auction, Lyubov holds a grand ball leaving Varya to worry about paying for everything. At the ball, Charlotta does card tricks and circus tumbling to amuse the guests.
Leonid goes to the auction but he doesn’t have enough money to stay in the bidding. Lopakhin brags that he bought the estate to implement the plans, which he presented to the family, for holiday cottages along the river. He is thrilled to be the owner of an estate where his father was a serf.
With the sound of the cherry orchard being chopped down in the background, the family and servants all depart, bound for different destinations. The 87-year old former valet, Firs, who has gone quite mad, is left behind, locked in the house.
Also appearing: Passerby (Eric Slater); Stationmaster (John Lister); Guests, Servants: Sam Hubbard, Bill McGough, Tyler Meredith, Bridget Painter, Flavia Pallozzi, and Tifany Scott.
Note: Guests are encouraged but not required to wear masks while inside the building.
The Cherry Orchard runs through April 30th in the Goodman Theatre’s Albert Theatre,170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Most reasonable parking option for the Goodman is the Government Center garage on Lake between LaSalle and Dearborn, online advance payment at www.interparkonline.com/goodmantheatre.
Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.
- Wednesdays at 7:30 pm
- Thursdays at 7:30 pm
- Fridays at 8:00 pm
- Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
- Sundays at 8:00 pm
Accessible & Special Performances:
- Touch Tour & Audio-Described Performance: April 29th, 12:30 pm Touch Tour, 2:00 pm Performance
- ASL Interpreted Performance, April 28th at 8:00 pm
- Spanish Subtitles, April 29th at 8:00 pm.
- Open Captioned Performance, April 30th at 2:00 pm.
Tickets $25-$80. FYI (312) 443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org/Ripple.