The Cherry Orchard
North Coast Rep has pulled together a first-rate cast to mount this spot-on production of Chekhov's masterpiece, and its members expertly convey the play's grand sweep and razor's edge tragicomedy. (You know a show is doing The Cherry Orchard right when a given line — say, "What is it that I wish to live or to blow my brains out?" — has you uncertain whether to laugh or cry — though laughter usually wins out.)
It remains an astonishment just how much life the play manages to put on stage in its story of a once great estate that is now facing financial disaster. It takes all kinds to make a world, and a great many of them are here: the buffoon, the intellectual, the cad, the religious, the naif, and on and on, helplessly but not always hopelessly declaring themselves in the face of inexorable events and cosmic indifference. Those events take place with unshowy matter-of-factness, such that it's almost surprising to discover their enduring hold on both head and heart.
It's hard to suggest a protagonist, as nobody changes much, but Richard Baird's Yermolay Lopakhin has perhaps done the most changing before the drama begins: his father and grandfather worked the land here, and he himself is a peasant — but he's rich now, in a position to help others...and himself. If only the kindly, tragic Lyubov, newly returned to her childhood home after a disastrous rendezvous in Paris, could see that the cherry orchard must be cut down to make way for development. Baird gets the play's big outburst of emotion, and he is master of the moment, but it only works as well as it does because he does not obscure those who witness it.
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