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Cherry Orchard focuses on funny side of foreclosure
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Cherry Orchard focuses on funny side of foreclosure

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Cherry Orchard
ACT Theatre
Through March 14


Anton Chekhov was a humorist, though you often wouldn't know it from modern interpretations of his plays. The current version of The Cherry Orchard, done by Theatre 9/12 as an Equity Member project (so pay-what-you-will/donation), focuses more on the humor than most.

The play is about Russian aristocrats who are losing their homes to foreclosure - shades of 2010! (Except for the aristocratic part.) Still, it is easy to imagine the lack of will to face their problems or deal with them before calamity falls. There is a neighbor, Lopakhin (David Anthony Lewis), who is advising them to subdivide. His advice, though crass, is realistic. He looks out from their presumably picturesque window and tells them that of course they must cut down all their cherry trees and raze the house, but if they do that, they'll have plenty of money. He is understandably miffed that they seem so unable to grasp the soundness of his advice. He is a self-made man, whose family used to be servants to this very family, and he has worked hard to advance himself in these modern times.

But Leonid (Gregory Michaels) and his sister Liubov (Rachel D. Pate) seem incapable of making rational decisions about their family home. They would rather go for a walk or even have a party. Liubov's daughter Varya (Rachel Glass) seems to be the practical one who pays the bills and manages what little money they have, but she has little control over her elders. They all seem to depend on Anya (Samara Lerman), the youngest daughter, who is supposed to marry someone rich and save them all by living off her rich husband. The problem is that Anya is in love with a ne'er-do-well student, Petya (Gabriel Franken), who is beyond all that shallow material stuff, including love.

There is a subculture of servants around them who are so desirous of being like aristocracy that they ignore the fact that the house is going to be sold out from under them, as well. Dunyasha (Macall Gordon) wants so much to be an aristocrat that she tries to make herself faint at the slightest provocation, unsuccessfully. Yepikhodov (Eric Olson) speaks with learned style but bungles the meaning of words and is great fun to listen to. It's a little like "Bush-speak." Carlotta (Colleen Carey) is a mysterious servant who claims to not know much about her own background, but is kept around to do magic tricks. Firs (Paul O'Connell) is the aged servant who talks a lot about the old days and forgets what's going on in the moment. Yasha (Julian Schrenzel), a servant of Liubov's, wants nothing more than to return with Liubov to Paris, since he's so much better than everyone else. There is another neighbor of aristocracy (Pishchik, Michael Oaks) who seems to only come over to try to borrow money.

The character descriptions do lend themselves to a typical farce, but Chekhov doesn't write farcical material. He's a little more subtle than that. However, this production does allow that farcical element a lot more play than some. Since the inevitable happens and the house is sold and destined to be demolished, you wish the family would wake up and realize it to their benefit, but they don't. That's probably the same issue happening in many foreclosing homes these days. For more information, go to www.theatre912.com or call 206-332-7908.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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