Goodman Theatre presents THE CHERRY ORCHARD.
Aristocrats are confronted by a dilapidated estate, a non-producing orchard and a carefree past that no longer exists. In his 1903 classic, Anton Chekhov explored the end of serfdom. Lyubov (played by a fierce Kate Fry) returns to her childhood home after an extended absence. Despite a celebrity welcome from family and servants, her joyful bliss is threatened. Her property has fallen into foreclosure. Her staff is existing on dried peas. And she can’t stop giving away her remaining rubles.
Adapter and director Robert Falls dusts off Chekhov’s masterpiece. In Falls’ new invention, any comedic nuance has been elevated for the audience’s pleasure. Boots squeak. Flowers fly. Cucumbers crunch. This show is LOL funny! A powerhouse ensemble of Chicago’s best actors add to the hilarious absurdity. A whimsical Fry reminiscences with her delightfully long-winded brother (played by Christopher Donahue). Their interactions are playful musings about the good old days. They are willfully obtuse about the consequences of their inaction. At one point, Fry dreamily ponders ‘if only there was a solution’ sending the pragmatic Yermolai (played by Kareem Bandealy) into a riotous rant. Falls’ banter is comedy gold.
Fry leads the merriment and buffoonery. She cajoles her daughters’ suitors, loans money to the neighbors and throws a huge party. Her optimism is so lofty, her devastation becomes palpable. Fry’s highs and lows captivate. Principal or supporting role: the entire ensemble has depth, distinction and a hand in the fun. The quirky Will Allan (Semyon) does bumbling slapstick. A deadpan Janet Ulrich Brooks (Charlotta) crushes the unexpected. And a droll Francis Guinan (Firs) utters priceless one liners. Under Falls’ direction, this ensemble is pure magic.
Falls stages this on Designer Todd Rosenthal’s mobile set. The first scenes happen in the ancient nursery. Rosenthal’s diorama emphasizes the big personalities confined in an intimate space. Later, the nursery rolls back to make room for outside activities… a roll in the grass and a bike ride by the river. For Act 3, Rosenthal drops walls and sparkly chandeliers for the ballroom. Costume Designer Ana Kuzmanic adds to the elegant aesthetic with the nobility draped in black finery while the working folks don brightly colored outfits. The underlying class shift is ever present in small and big ways. The final act is a sober return to the smallness of the nursery where it all began and ends.
THE CHERRY ORCHARD is a perfect farewell for Robert Falls’ long reign as Artistic Director. It’s a charmingly hilarious and hopeful tribute to what comes next.
Running Time: Two hours and fifty minutes includes an intermission
At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed by Robert Falls
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 7:30pm
Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm
Thru April 30th
For more information or tickets
Production photos by Liz Lauren
For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago