Review "THE CHERRY ORCHARD": Terrific Pickings!

Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers
Raven Theatre presents

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

The house is in foreclosure.  The daughter’s boyfriend is unemployed.  The matriarch spends the grocery money on partying.  It’s definitely the recession! But it’s not  Americans floundering in 2011, it’s Russians flailing in1911.  Raven Theatre presents Anton Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD.  The Ranevskayas are old money.  They enjoy galas, champagne and servants.  Historically, the family’s estate has hosted galas for dignitaries.  But that’s the past, the present is bleak. The cash is almost gone!  It’s time for action.  The orchard should be sold off for money.  The daughter should be married off for money.  The family should be not ripped off for money. The solutions are obvious… unless you choose to be oblivious.  The Ranevskayas crank the tunes, guzzle the booze and dance their cares away.  Although the family’s cherry orchard no longer produces edible fruit, Raven’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD is bursting with delicious, succulent goodness.          

Playwright Anton Chekov penned a classic with timeless implications. A family pretends their economic situation hasn’t changed so they continue to live frivolously.  Pending doom is momentarily discussed and then dismissed for more pleasant party chatter.    

It’s so 2011 and likely foreshadowing a Kardashians’ reality show one hundred years in the future.  Director Michael Menendian masterfully paces it to perfection.  Menendian keeps the movement tight and smooth.  Beyond a scene’s focal point, Menendian stages simultaneous activity.  Ron Quade (Leonid) plucking air or Manny Buckley (Yasha) sophisticatedly stealing silver are mesmerizing sidelines of hilarity.  Representing a household trying to laugh away their blues, this cast exploits every possible comedic moment.  Kelli Strickland (Dunyasha) drunkenly goes from enchanted to annoyed with sparkling amusement.  Liz Fletcher (Charlotte) entertains with magical flair. Helen Young (Varya) deadpans the hard-working voice of reason.  Frederick Harris (Yermolay) delightfully bumble his newfound wealth.  Fernando S. Albiar (Semyon) showcases his misfortune with slapstick humor.  Joann Montemurro (Lyubov) plays the matriarch with aristocratic refinement and nonsense.  Montemurro’s endears with her short-sighted generosity and charming victim mentality.  The entire ensemble is sublime portraying a family in denial.  

The second act opens with an amazing spectacle of merriment choreographed by Brigitte Ditmars.  Leading the lively dance, Buckley, Michael Peters (Pyotr) and Carthy Dixon (Vagrant) impress with their energetic physicality.  Costume designer Joelle Beranek adds to the visual stimulation with wonderful allegorical choices.  A top hat and formal attire on David Adams (Firs) helps identify the ancient man-servant’s connection to the elegant past.  Color and lace on Sophia Menendian (Anya) is nice sisterly contrasts to Young’s drab working clothes. Beranek drapes everyone with feisty personality.  Cast, costumes, choreography, I loved all but one minor element of this production. Jason Huysman’s (Boris) beard needs a reality makeover.  

THE CHERRY ORCHARD is ripe with fresh comedy and bushels of family drama.  It’s terrific pickings!
Enjoying the Kvas more than me, Tom describes it with ‘full-blooded modern tragedy.’
Written by Anton Chekov
Directed by Michael Menendian
At 6157 N. Clark Street
Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm, Thru July 23rd 
Running Time:  Two hours includes an intermission
Production photography courtesy of Dean LaPrairie 

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