The Midland Center for the Arts production of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (Translation by Tom Stoppard) is a show to be seen.
Some people hear Chekhov and think “Uh-oh. Russian. Old. Scary.” Well, don’t let the long character names fool you. This is a story about a family who does not have the life skills to cope with changing circumstances. The family returns to their childhood estate in financial trouble and cannot come to terms with what must be done to save themselves. Each member of the family begins to realize that inaction doesn’t stop life from rolling right over you. Audiences will recognize much of the actions in this show from real life. After all, classic plays are classic because they examine themes that are still relatable 115 years later.
Director Keeley Stanley-Bohn does a beautiful job with this funny (yes funny!) and poignant play. The attention to detail and flow of the scenes were impressive, and the drive of the show keeps our attention even when the script occasionally becomes repetitive. Ms. Stanley-Bohn also deserves kudos for assembling such a stellar cast. Ashley Potts, as the obstinate Ranevskaya, owns the stage. Caroline Jasin, as sweet Anya, lights up each scene with skill well beyond her years. Claudia Marsh, who played Charlotta, is a blast to watch, though I didn’t catch who she was, and nothing in the way the script is written is helpful in figuring it out. Emily Anderson’s powerful Varya, Lily Somers commitment as Dunyasha, Katie Cook’s grasp of comedy and the exact right moment to twist your heart…the list could go on and on. It is a very lucky audience that sees their first community theatre production of a Chekhov play in the hands of this capable cast.
Costumes, by Courtney Brown, are beautiful and really pull you in to a lost time where money was just a thing that was always there. Sound was designed by Richard Bronson and Lights by Marie Andrews, but the true star of the show was the incredible set design by Evan Lewis. It is a treat when you see a set that succeeds in being visually/artistically interesting, functional, and a bolster to the storytelling. Lewis is to be commended for this one. No walls between windows and doors give us a feeling of grandeur, branches hung to indicate the orchard let your mind fill in the blanks… It is as though he has transformed their home into a whole other character in the show…and rightfully so.
There is one tiny thing that continued to strike me as odd throughout the show. There is a doll house in the nursery, and it is complete perfection (kudos to props master Jenn Joseph who also supplied the adorable pup Miss Ellie). But for all the nostalgia regarding their time growing up in the nursery, no one touches the doll house, looks at it, references it…it is completely ignored. For such a specific, detailed show…I wondered why this choice.
I do want to mention that there is a little nugget of gold in the brief vocal stylings of Ben Mellish as the Passer-By. In fact, there are many fascinating details in this show. Look around the stage, or watch a cast member who is in the background, or go see the show a second time…you may catch something the person next to you did not. Don’t miss out on seeing Chekhov done well!
The show continues to play Jan 18 & 19 at 7:30pm and Jan 20 at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased online, in person, by phone at (800) 523-7649 or (989) 631-8250.