The Cherry Orchard – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Whether you live in a hovel or a McMansion, you definitely have feelings about the walls and roof that cover your head that you call home. For the Ranevakaya family in the early 1900’s in Imperial Russia, the symbol of their wealth and prestige is captured in a strand of trees known lovingly as the cherry orchard. Yet when that copse of forest is threatened, the mistress of the estate, Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya, closes her eyes to the reality that the family heritage will be sold at auction and lost forever.

Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” was first produced on his birthday, January 17, 1904, and he died at a young age a few months after that same year. Now, more than a century later, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre is offering its own updated interpretation, thanks to an adaptation by Jean-Claude van Itallie, until Sunday, October 13th.

Caralyn Kozlowski’s Madame Ranevskaya fled to Paris after the accidental death of her son and has spent five years ithere living a gay party-filled life until a shatteringly tragic love affair sends her fleeing home to her Russian estate for the comfort of familiar surroundings and people. She chooses not to see the axe that is hanging over her home, nor does she seriously consider any of the ways presented to her to avert catastrophe. God may be sending her a canoe, a boat and a helicopter so she won’t drown in the financial flood but she refuses to acknowledge them. Her daughter Anya (Abigail Hilditch), her stepdaughter Varya (Alex Campbell), her brother Leonid (Mark Light-Orr), the tutor Trofimov (Bryan Mittelstadt) and the successful businessman who was once a serf Lopakhin (Nikolai Fernandez) are powerless to stop the downfall of this respected landowning aristocracy. The versatile cast also includes Tristan Rewald, Rob Barnes, Sierra Kane, Sebastian Nagpal, Erin Cessna, Matthew Antoci and Anthony Giovino. The grinding sound of saws at the play’s end are ominous with the progress they represent. John Miller-Stephany directs this masterpiece of modern drama on a set designed by Zach Broome with a parade of costumes of the time created by Xurui Wang.

For tickets ($10-33) call the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the Jorgenson, on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, at 860-486-2113. or online at Performances will be Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Watch Madame Ranevskaya who calls herself “silly old me” in her dealings with finances confess “I can’t conceive of life without my cherry orchard,” yet be ineffectual in looking the truth straight in the eye.