By Beki Pineda
THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Written by Anton Chekhov; directed by Ed Baierlein. Produced by Germinal Stage (7287 Lowell Blvd., Westminster) through May 3. Tickets available at 303-455-7108 or www.germinalstage.com
Having just enjoyed the BETC spoof of Chekhov in STUPID F##KING BIRD, I found it equally enjoyable to visit the original Chekhov of THE CHERRY ORCHARD. It was also a pleasure to revisit the always creative directorial touches of Ed Baierlein, who always manages to bring a fresh and imaginative outlook to even the most familiar material.
This was my first visit to the newly remodeled 73rd Avenue Playhouse. I must say it feels much more like a theater and less like a garage under the management of the Germinal team. The lobby area has been reconfigured and the theater made more comfortable by the addition of seats from the old theater. Everything is tightened up and looks like a place that means business. I did miss the photographs from former shows that adorned the walls of the old theater.
Chekhov’s script explores the blurring of lines between peasants and gentry. A once-wealthy family and its entourage arrive back at their country estate. Through their lack of management skills and the assumption that everything will always be as it always was, the estate has fallen under a tax lien and into disrepair. A townsman, Lopakhin, now wealthy but still in awe of the family, provides a solution, but Lubov, the reigning diva of the family, doesn’t want to hear of any solution that involves the destruction of the cherry orchard of her childhood. As in all things through the passage of time, however, the destruction of the past is inevitable. Because of the family’s unwillingness to accept change, all is lost.
This production creates the slow swirl of a downward-pulling whirlpool as the family members and servants who still live on the estate greet the returning members, as the new and old relationships between family and townsfolk are brought forth, and as the servants move through the crowded house bringing in luggage and serving food. The constant movement seems to emphasize the loss of concentration on significant happenings and the inability to have a meaningful conversation. The second-act soundtrack of the trees being chopped down to make way for Lopakhin’s new “subdivision” provides but a momentary distraction. Their self absorption even finds their old faithful servant Fiers left behind and forgotten. As always, “someone else” was supposed to take care of this.
This ensemble production moves like a gavotte, with each player having his or her moment in the center of the dance floor to tell their part of the story. Lisa Mumpton is a stunning Lubov, the point around which the maelstrom circles. She is aptly supported by her family and entourage of actors.
On the tech side, the set is simple but well and richly appointed. The costumes by Sallie Diamond are beautiful and emphasize the difference between old money and nouveau riche, between lower-class and gentry. The intermission soundtrack goes from quietly melodic to screechingly discordant as it leads into the turmoil and change of Act II.
WOW factor: 8.5