The Cherry Orchard | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Cherry Orchard

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The Cherry Orchard, Reverie Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. What was funny to 19th-century Russian aristocrats may not seem humorous to American audiences today, so modern directors often ignore Chekhov's assertion that his plays were comedies. But the farcical dimension is hard to shrug off in The Cherry Orchard, whose characters include such stock types as a terminally klutzy servant and a down-at-heels nobleman forever looking for a loan.

Director Chris Pomeroy's solution is to play both the comic and tragic dimensions broadly. The dialogue is recited in brittle, highly artificial tones (facilitated by Curt Columbus's Americanized translation), and the comical falling down of actors and objects suddenly gives way to melodramatic posturing and gloomy pronouncements. This is less annoying than you might expect since the theme of this debut production by the Reverie Theatre Company is not so much the surrender of the old order to the new--symbolized by a country estate's imminent conversion into a tourist resort--but the travails of interclass romance: sweetly sensitive lovers' adagios are sandwiched between the solemnity and the slapstick.

This radically diverse approach to a familiar text was not particularly well integrated on opening night. But the vertigo induced by abrupt mood swings should abate as the actors settle into their roles. In the meantime, Scott Westerman as the idealistic Trofimov and Jeffrey Baumgartner as the pragmatic Lopakin give their characters a confident presence, providing stability in a volatile universe.

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