In 1950, writer-director Josh Logan transferred Chekhov’s play to the American South in an adaptation called The Wisteria Trees. Now, director Heidi Helen Davis, and Ellen Geer have reset the play near Charlottesville, Virginia, and updated it to 1970. The ex-serfs have become the descendants of slaves, and Chekhov’s Madame Ranevsky has become Lillian Randolph Cunningham (Ellen Geer), the owner of the famous cherry orchard that’s “mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica.” Though it’s a very free adaptation, it admirably preserves the play’s flavor and spirit. And while Davis’ production skewers the characters for their vanity, folly and ineptitude, it treats them with affectionate respect. She’s blessed with a wonderful cast, including William Dennis Hunt as the landowner’s garrulous, fatuous brother; J.R. Starr as an ancient family retainer; Melora Marshall as the eccentric governess Carlotta; and Steve Matt as the grandson of slaves — and a go-getter businessman who longs to be the master. The production is easygoing, relaxed, faithful in its own way, and often very funny. It may be the most fully integrated (in every sense of the word) production of the play that we’re likely to see. Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; call for schedule; through September 26. (310) 455-3723 or www.¬theatricum.com.

Sat., June 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 5, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 26, 8 p.m. Starts: June 27. Continues through Sept. 11, 2009

LA Weekly