<i>The Cherry Orchard</i>

Shane Tometich Daniel Manning and Jennifer Christina DeRosa

Details

Fri., Dec. 16, 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 17, 8 p.m., Sun., Dec. 18, 5 p.m., Fri., Jan. 6, 8 p.m., Sat., Jan. 7, 8 p.m., Sun., Jan. 8, 5 p.m., Fri., Jan. 13, 8 p.m., Sat., Jan. 14, 8 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 15, 5 p.m. 2017
$20

Location Info:

The Loft Ensemble
13442 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA  91423
818-616-3150
Writers and directors are famously at odds, and there is perhaps no more celebrated example than the clash between Anton Chekhov and Konstantin Stanislavski over The Cherry Orchard, which Chekhov deemed a comedy but Stanislavski staged with an eye to the work’s unhappy implications. Perhaps one reason they differed is that Chekhov was more interested in character than plot, and perceived his characters and their often self-deceiving foibles as more focal than any story line. His aim was to satirize the social class they belonged to, rather than mourn its imminent collapse, as the play’s ending suggests.

Adapter-director Jared Wilson seems to have taken these sentiments to heart; he’s written an extraordinarily broad adaptation that tracks the events of the original but encourages the ensemble to express their onstage personas in offbeat and wacky ways. Some of the acting is so broad and loose that, watching it, I thought perhaps large portions of the goings-on were improvised, but this turns out not to be the case. Rather, multiple comedic ploys, such as the transformation of monied landowner Boris into Bill (Tor Brown), a swaggering Texan with cowboy boots, have been written in by playwright Wilson, dialogue and all. There's also a Harold and Maude, May-December liaison between two other characters that is awkward and unsettling.

A lot of the shtick isn't that funny — how many yuks are there in one person circling the stage boozing from a bottle? — but it might have been more effective if the performances had been better. Instead, one gets the impression of earnest students expanding their boundaries in an acting class.

The most acceptable work comes from those who hew closest to tradition — understudy Jennifer Christina DeRosa does best in the pivotal role of Renee (Chekhov’s Mme. Ranevskaya), a likable but financially irresponsible lady about to lose her land; Ainsley Peace, as her somber eldest daughter, also is good. DeRosa compensates for a lack of depth with a sympathetic naturalness. As Lenny, the up-and-coming businessman who tries to help her, Maxwell Marsh's antics begin to grow on you as he energetically rides the narrative to its conclusion.

Bree Pavey’s set design is abstract, simple and effective, and Brown's lighting design — a change in hue for each successive scene — adds much-needed ambiance.

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