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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