By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
This could, or should, be moving, but there’s too much anger in this production, and it’s too messy to capture Chekhov’s transcendent wisdom. There are, however, some beautiful, lugubrious moments, such as when a group of characters stares into the horizon and one of them announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the sun has just set.”
The Cherry Orchardis the stage equivalent of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, a melding of hauntingly beautiful motifs into a single theme that keeps returning and swelling until interrupted by the timpani clap of a thunderstorm. When the theme re-emerges after the storm, it’s slightly refreshed, but also slightly broken. And if the play’s musicality is not as skillfully played as a symphony, it melts into a generalized wash of comic and pastoral moods and faux moodiness.
Don Oscar Smith is a lovely, wry actor, but his Lopakhin barely cuts beneath the obvious surfaces of affability and frustration; local legend Tom Fitzpatrick walks too gamely in the footsteps of Ranyevskaya’s brother, Leonid, so that when he arrives sobbing with the news of the estate’s sale, it comes off as artifice.
Leo Marks plays the student Trofimov, searching for spiritual meaning amid the mire, with such neurotic, earnest gravity that he becomes one of the production’s two anchors. The other is Maria O’Brien as the dithering matriarch, Ranyevskaya, parading in clingy dresses and a high-pitched voice in direct counterpoint to Bening’s grandiloquent dame at the Taper. By Act 3, her face has absorbed an expression of such poignant confusion and panic, eyes brimming with tears, that her performance starts to tug at the bones. Never mind the fading Russian aristocracy: O’Brien has all the twitches, the bursts of anger and perfectly modulated bewilderment to make the collapse of a theater on Beverly Boulevard seem like something almost tragic.
DeLorenzo’s production is a product of his circumstances, which is a product of our times, in which people rattle AK-47s and storm out of rooms. We’re all too noisy and too busy for much meaningful exchange. When listening at the lip of a wishing well for truths from the deep, we need to stand side by side, quietly and still.
THE CHERRY ORCHARD | By ANTON CHEKHOV, translated by PAUL SCHMIDT | Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. | Through July 2 | (213) 381-7118.