(David Cote’s article appeared in Time Out New York, 12/4.)
Few New York institutions can claim as triumphant a run of revivals by the same author as Classic Stage Company can with Anton Chekhov. Yes, Signature Theatre Company devotes whole seasons to (living) playwrights, but it’s rare to see a venue dedicate itself so fruitfully to one of the long-gone greats. So let’s heave a gratified sigh that CSC has capped off its vigorous Seagull (2008), emotionally raw Uncle Vanya (2009) and deeply moving Three Sisters (in February) with a shattering account of Chekhov’s 1903 farewell, The Cherry Orchard. Brimming with some of the city’s finest young actors and more seasoned troupers, and staged with ferocious energy and precision by Andrei Belgrader, this is Chekhov as it should be: alternately silly and devastating, a strange parade of Russians griping, weeping and hoping, even as their world is chopped to pieces.
The new translation, by actor John Christopher Jones, is highly playable, seamlessly blending the memory-haunted reveries of cash-strapped aristocratic homeowner Ranevskaya (Wiest) and the money-obsessed sputterings of peasant-turned-businessman Lopakhin (Turturro). These two figures form the drama’s central struggle: the backward tug of nostalgia and the forward prod of profit. People in The Cherry Orchard are trapped between an idyllic past that never was and a utopian future that may never be.