The Cherry Orchard -- 09/24/06

Nancy and I went to see a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard last night at Trinity Rep in Providence. The play was translated from the Russian by Curt Columbus, who also directed the production. (Columbus is the new Artistic Director at Trinity Rep; he was formerly Associate Artistic Director at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, replacing Oskar Eustis, who left Trinity Rep to become Artistic Director of the New York Public Theatre.)

It was a fast-paced production with witty and amusing dialog (Columbus did a good job of translation) that also revealed the pain that various characters were feeling. In an interesting bit of casting, the part of Yermolai Lopakin, the son of a serf who has become a successful businessman and who ends up buying the cherry orchard, was played by Joe Wilson, Jr., a very talented actor who happens to be black. (We had seen him as Horatio in Hamlet and in multiple roles in Boots on the Ground (a play at TrinityRep that was created from interviews with our soldiers in Iraq and their families back home). This added levels of meaning to relationships between the former serfs (Firs, an elderly woman servant [in this production, although an elderly male in the original] and also one of the younger male servants were also played by black actors.) and the aristocratic family that had once owned them (or their ancestors) and giving added poignancy to Wilson's memories of his father and grandfather having been slaves on this very estate and on the way members of the Ranevskaya family can look right through him as if he isn't there, even when he is trying to help them.

Having noted that this was a good production with a talented cast, I must say that I had difficulty raising much sympathy for Lovey Ranevskaya and her family and friends -- which surprised me, because a year or so ago when 2nd Story Theatre did Turgenev's A Month in the Country (which had some very similar themes of a foolish aristocracy whose time was running out, the rise of peasants to mercantile success, and the ending of a way of life) I felt sympathy for many of the characters. So we spent much of the ride home analyzing the play and trying to figure out the characters and how we felt about them. I think, what it comes down to, is that the aristocratic family was just too foolish and feckless for me to feel sympathy for them -- I began sympathetic but after a while you just want to tell them to get a clue -- we both felt far more sympathy for Joe Wilson's Yermolai Lopakin, although also felt frustrated by his inability to propose marriage to Varya.

All of which is, I think, a tribute to the actors in this production -- that we covered thirty-five miles of driving while discussing the characters in the play as if they were real people.

Anyway, whilst I was busy ignoring these pages, I was doing a lot of other stuff -- last weekend, for example, Adam and Leah and Sammy came up from New York for a three day visit and Jill and I ran in the CVS Downtown 5k race and I've got lots of pictures to show you... but not today... maybe tomorrow...

Also, coming up on Tuesday is the 10th anniversary of this Web site.

Yeah, time does fly...

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