by Jasleen Jaswal Vines
“If we're to start living in the present, isn't it abundantly clear that we've first got to redeem our past and make a clean break with it?” – Trofimov, “The Cherry Orchard”
Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” opens with the return of a matriarch to a family home facing foreclosure. The end of serfdom has ushered in the rise of the middle class, and with it a desire to rise above a deeply entrenched class structure. Sage men pontificate, young girls swoon, and old men cling to the past. Through it all, a merchant from humble beginnings tries to save the estate for his father’s former masters, ultimately making a difficult choice while twisting the knife. The future is here, and the old ways must die.
Before I get to the rest of the review, let’s address the obvious: why isn’t Katy Walsh writing this review? True story: Katy saw 247 shows in 2011. The woman sees a lot of Chicago theater, but she can’t be everywhere. When I mentioned I purchased tickets to Piccolo Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard, Katy lamented it was one of the shows she was missing this month due to a heavy review schedule. I jokingly suggested that I review the show in her place, not expecting that she’d immediately agree and send me off, notebook in hand.
Lucky for me, because now I can tell you that Piccolo Theatre has once again staged a solid production. Director Zachary Davis* delivers well-paced and nuanced performances, flowing evenly from tragedy to comedy without missing a beat. A strong ensemble led by Amy Gorelow (Liubov), Glenn Proud (Lopakhin), and David W.M. Kelch (Gayev) keeps the audience engaged through a speech-heavy script. Basia Kapolka (Carlotta) is striking as a jaded shot of reality amongst characters with an inability to live in the moment. Scott Patrick Sawa (Trofimov) shares words of wisdom while keeping his character relatable. Nathan Thompson (Yepikhodov) nails the physicality and emotion of his underdog character.
Piccolo Theatre’s space is unique, and it’s always a lovely surprise to see how the company transforms its Metra train station spot. JAJ Design makes excellent use of the space, hanging gauzy curtains from piping and then twisting them to create new spaces for each scene. On your way in, be sure to check out the beautiful character sketches drawn by costume designer Joshua Allard alongside the cast photos. Seats are laid out in an L - grab a seat about halfway down the long side for the best view.
More than class mobility, “The Cherry Orchard” is about the nature of change and how we as humans face the inevitable. Remember Chekov’s famous edict that a gun introduced in the first act must be fired in the second? Yepikhodov pulls out his pistol to impress his lady, but at the end of the play, it remains unfired. For his last play, Chekov challenged his own edict, suggesting that the change we expect isn’t the change we deserve.
THREE WORDS: Tech week veteran Geoff calls the show well-directed and complex.
*Full disclosure: Davis and I have been friends for 10 years.
Running time: 2 hours and 14 minutes, including intermission.
At The Arts Depot, 600 Main Street, Evanston
Written by Anton Chekov
Translated by Paul Schmidt
Directed by Zachary Davis
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm
Through May 5
Box Office 847-424-0089 or online orders www.piccolotheatre.com
All photos are the copyrighted material of Robert Erving Potter III. Used with permission.