Chekhov calls his play "a comedy in four acts," so who is to argue with him? Certainly not Dudley Stone, Marlena Lustik, and the joint forces of the Yorkville Rep. and All Souls Players, who mounted a breezy, almost farcical interpretation.
Particularly of interest in the cast were Maureen Garrett as Lyubov Andreevna Ranevskaya, a landowner refusing to face the imminent demise of her orchard; Stephanie Stone as Varya, her adopted daughter, metamorphosing into spinsterhood before our eyes while waiting for Yermolay Alexeevich Lopakhin (Antony Ferguson) to ask for her hand; and Sean Callery as Firs, a manservant who has been around since the freeing of the serfs, a day he takes every opportunity to malign. Callery, especially, nailed the balance of pathos and comedy on the head in a role that could have been just an opportunity for mugging or bathos. Stephanie Stone made believable that she was at every moment aware of her opportunity's slipping away. And Garrett was Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.
Not all performances were so successful. Christina Grandy, as Ranevskaya's daughter Anya, all in white, showed a modern American tendency in diction, saying "The birds in thuh orchard are singing," which didn't sit well with the more Anglicized tones of some of the other actors, and otherwise suggested an American ingenue (if that is not an oxymoron) at sea in a European setting. And Elizabeth Gans chose a heavy mittel-Europan dialect, perhaps in character but nonetheless jarring, for her portrayal of the flaky governess (sunflowers twined in her braids) Charlotta Ivanovna.
Antony Ferguson, while a fine actor, lacked the Malvoliolike intensity needed for Lopakhin, and played the role like a romantic lead (for which he could be typecast). Robert Goddard, as Petya Sergeevich Trofimov, perpetual student, should at least have had some gray hairs but otherwise fitted the bill perfectly. Dudley Stone, as the (rather exaggeratedly) narcoleptic Boris Simeonov-Pishchik, another landowner, had fun with the part, in keeping with the overall interpretation. Dan Jacoby, as the accident-prone estate clerk Semyon Panteleevich Yepikhodov, showed laudable restraint in his clowning. Bob Heitman rose manfully above the burdens of his constant fantasy billiards-playing, some of which would have better ended up on the adapter's cutting-room floor. (In general, the adaptation flowed smoothly and admirably avoided both English and American vernacular.)
Director Marlena Lustik kept the pace up and showed a firm hand in stage groupings and focus.
The set (James Joughin) -- a few well-chosen set pieces, including a doll's house that ended up on the trash heap in the finale, some curtains on schematic wooden rods, and black drapes - was more than enough for the cramped church-basement stage. (A pity that, with everyone on board, some actors inevitably blocked others from view, even when sitting on children's chairs in the nursery.) Lighting (Cyrus Newitt) was best when functional; in one moody premonitory bit, the level came down so dramatically it looked like a solar eclipse. Costumes (Carlotta Kerwin, Barbara Louis, and Alma Guinness) were lush and well-chosen.
Also featuring Annette Mack, John Mead, and Peter James Kelsch.
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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton