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Calendar >  Anton Chekhov Classic Play “The Cherry Orchard” on Stage at Solana Beach North Coast Repertory Theatre

Anton Chekhov Classic Play “The Cherry Orchard” on Stage at Solana Beach North Coast Repertory Theatre

By   /  March 13, 2023  /  No Comments

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TR Robertson -Russian playwright Anton Chekhov thought he had written a comedy in 1903. “The Cherry Orchard” opened at the Moscow Theatre in 1904, under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski who saw the play as more of a tragedy. Since then, directors around the world, when bringing this play to their theatres, find themselves walking a fine line between the comic elements in the play and the more dramatic, perhaps tragic, interpretation the play involves. There is certainly no doubt that the play presents unfortunate situations a family is going through at the turn of the early years of 20th century Russia, at time when a turbulent political environment was beginning to develop in the country. North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein has brought to stage a wonderful and dynamic group of actors who bring just enough humor that would have made Chekhov proud, while keeping the serious and sad circumstances this aristocratic family is going though dramatically entertaining.

Photos by Ken Jacques

Fourteen talented actors, several making their North Coast debut, bring to life the complex Ranevskaya family and an array of quirky and unusual friends. Chekhov was writing at a time the aristocratic lifestyle of many Russian people and the role of the government in society was being questioned by the growing resentment of lower-class serfs and a rising middle class. His story centers around Lyubov Ranevskaya who has returned from Paris to the family home in Russia to supposedly deal with the fact that the family estate, including the cherry orchard, is due to be auctioned to pay the mortgage. She has returned with her youngest daughter Anya, the daughter’s governess Charlotta, and Lyubov’s valet Yasha. She had gone to Paris as her young son drowned years before and while there she had attempted suicide. At the estate, waiting for her return is her adopted daughter Varna, Lyubov’s brother Leonid, Yermolay Lopakhin a merchant who was once a serf, Dunyasha the housemaid, Boris the landowner who has fallen on hard times, Peter the for-ever student who sees the political climate changing, Yepikhodov the clumsy clerk, and Firs the eccentric, older manservant. Lopakhin spends most of the play trying to convince Lyubov she needs to sell the property. Brother Leonid spends the play reliving the old days and still believing everything will work out. Several “love” interests are teased as the housemaid Dunyasha is convinced she is in love with the valet Yasha, the bumbling clerk Yepikhodov trying to win the heart of Dunyasha, Lopakhin trying to convince himself to propose to Varya, Lyubov trying to convince Varya to marry Lopakhin. It’s a complicated mess but fascinating seeing all of the quirky and complicated relationships develop on stage.

The award winning Richard Baird plays Yermolay Lopakhin and once again presents an outstanding performance on the North Coast Rep stage, this time as the frustrated and passionate middle class merchant who represents the changing Russia. Katie MacNichol portrays Lyubov Ranevskaya, the aristocratic owner of the estate and the cherry orchard, a person still lost in the belief that the old ways will survive and everything will work out for the best. Katie is the perfect choice for this character as she portrays what Chekhov must have intended the aristocratic woman to represent.

Every time Bruce Turk spoke, as Leonid the brother of Lyubov, it brought a chuckle from the audience. His portrayal of this eccentric brother was both humorous and sad. He was another example of that portion of Russian society at that time, lost in their own world. Another actor who was a stand-out on stage, but had just a few lines, was James Sutorius who played the ancient manservant Firs. Firs plays a major at the end of the play, bringing the social and cultural theme of this play to a close.

The remainder of the cast is outstanding as well which includes Ted Barton as the outgoing, broke Pishchik, Michael Louis Cusimano as the uppity valet Yasha, Amanda Evans as the overly serious Varya, Riley Osburn as the impulsive Anya, Katy Tang as the lovestruck housemaid Dunyasha and Michael Raver as the impassioned Trofimov. Two standouts that provide some comic relief amid the family chaos is Jackson Goldberg as the clumsy, equally lovestruck Yepikhodov and Sofia Jean Gomez as the loud, animated Charlotta Ivanovna. Additional cast members included James Thomas Snyder as the Postmaster and stage crew and John Tessmer as a Vagrant, Station Master and stage crew.

Assisting Director David Ellenstein is his creative team of Set Designer Marty Burnet, Lighting Designer Matthew Novotny, Costume Designer Elisa Benzoni, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman, Prop Designer Rachel Hengst and Sound Designer Evan Eason. Special mention to the appropriately costumed period outfits and a perfectly adapted set design with movable partitions to create different room appearances and the cherry orchard. The Stage Manager is Christopher M. Williams and his Assistant Stage Manager Matt Fitzgerald.

“The Cherry Orchard” is at The North Coast Repertory Theatre at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr. in Solana Beach. The play will run until April 2nd. Tickets are available at www.northcoastrep.org or call 858-481-1055. As Lyubov says, “I think something awful is about to happen” and for a couple of hours on the theatre stage you will truly enjoy watching the trials and tribulations shown in this classic play.

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