By Ed Kliszus
The ORCHARD at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY, is offered live or live-streamed.
Adapted from Chekov’s play, The Cherry Orchard, this production also centers around the return in 1904 to Russia of the aristocrat and landowner Madame Lubov Ranevsky (Jessica Hecht) from a stint in Paris. Ranevsky must sell her estate, which includes a prized cherry orchard, because she cannot repay the debts accrued against it.
In this adaptation by Igor Golyak, Anton Chekhov (Mikhail Baryshnikov) emerges as a critical figure in the story. Baryshnikov also plays the part of Firs, the Ranevsky’s long-time servant. Chekov’s original intentions regarding a portrayal of the collapse of the aristocracy and rise of the bourgeoisie are intact as the descendent of former serfs Yermolai Lopakhin (Nael Nacer) wins the auction to purchase the Ranevsky estate.
The play begins by announcing an auction and advertising a tour of a Chelsea building featured as ready for a full renovation. Might this be the original site for the Baryshnikov Arts Center? We enter the building, noting its empty rooms and staircases.
The story evolves in a complex dreamscape through the contemporary arts of live-streamed multi-media drama. It is an intellectually and sensuously stimulating artistic experience presented in a manner unavailable on typical physical stages. Those participating remotely worldwide can see closeups and angles available only through the cinematic eyes of the creative team. The admixture of live and digital audience participation exemplifies the evolution of this powerful art form where videography and audio engineering can amplify the story’s import and denote a flawless entwinement of early 20th and 21st-century accouterments.
As the story unwinds in the background, the charming Mme. Ranevsky interjects a commercial for selling the Chelsea building. She opines on the estate’s cherry orchard and digresses into a cherry cake recipe. She entreats us to appreciate family, notes the passing of time, and circles back to details about the Chelsea property with its fireplaces, window air conditioners, and all.
It’s then a return to the dreamscape of superimposed images and revolving dimensions. Characters are dancing and gesticulating. Saturn and Jupiter float above the stage.
Lights brighten and a stark reminder of the estate’s sale by auction is evoked. They are now at the center of the solar system, planets and stars abound, and they are alit, traveling through time and infinity. The scene explodes into a series of errors on a giant computer screen.
Outer space evaporates as a bibulous man enters with a flashlight and helmet. He lifts a book from the floor and reads the Russian text out loud. He drinks from his flask and bellows a drunken song. Chekov excoriates him in Russian.
After lightning and explosions the cast rebounds, Russian disco music rings out, and Chekhov sweeps the floor to clear a path. The auction offers are posted live. and characters begin to dance. The robotic pet demonstrates its dexterity, and we watch parlor card tricks occurring over cartoonish folk music.
The work is a masterpiece of drama, stagecraft, and technology in emerging fields. Be sure to meet the creative team here for full bios.
Runtime: About 2 hours with no intermission
A new adaptation of The Cherry Orchard
Produced by Arlekin Players Theatre and (zero-G) Lab In association with Cherry Orchard Festival, Groundswell Theatricals, and ShowOne Productions Conceived, adapted, and directed by Igor Golyak. Producing Artistic Director Igor Golyak. Executive Producer Sara Stackhouse. Based on The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, as translated by Carol Rocamora with new material by Igor Golyak.
Featuring Jessica Hecht as Ranevskaya with Juliet Brett, Darya Denisova, Elise Kibler, John McGinty, Nael Nacer, Mark Nelson & Ilia Volok.
Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov and Firs.
Meet the cast here.
Meet the creative team here.
The Orchard through July 3, 2022, at the Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 W 37th St #501 New York, NY 10018 (646) 731-3200