At the Utah Shakespearean
Festival's Randall Jones Theater, Anton Chekov's "The Cherry
Orchard" is an intense psychological drama that examines wealth,
power, nobility, and slavery from both the slave's and master's point
of view. To landowner Yuba Ranevskaya and her brother Leonid, the
cherry orchard symbolizes peace, beauty, and happiness amid any
storm. To their former serf Lopakhin it's a symbol of the servitude
father and grandfather, and part of the reason his father would get
drunk and beat him as a child.
Ranevskaya has been living in Paris, since the drowning death of her young son. She has squandered all of her money and the estate is about to be auctioned off to pay the debt. The set is the interior of the house as she left it five years earlier. It's dull and drab, as are most of the sets and music in this show. It wears you down. She has always been good to Lopakhin, who is now a wealthy businessman. He is at the house to meet her, and offers her a proposal to save her estate. He will lend her the money if she will permit him to cut down the cherry orchard, to make lots for summer tourist homes. Ranevskaya virtually refuses to recognize the proposal, while her brother snorts "This place smells of cheap scent" in a reference to Lopakhin.
Dennis Robertson's Leonid is a poverty stricken noble who insists on shooting his mouth off about everything, and in the process he offends most anyone who takes him at all seriously. He launches into a soliloquy about the beautifully noble 100 year old bookcase, which, incidentally, appears to be made from cherry wood. He suggests that they borrow money from their Yaroslavl Aunt who "married beneath her, but she's got enough money so she doesn't like us." His arrogance and obstinacy actually provides some lightness to this play because he takes it to such extremes.
Ranevskaya's daughter, Anya is in love with a former tutor, of her brother who drowned. Pyotr Trofimov or Petya is a perpetual student who will be so till the end of time. He rails against the intelligentsia who don't make anything, do anything constructive, don't even read books of substance. He says "the problem with your family is that you owned serfs; you owned human souls. That's what the cherry orchard represents and that's why it must come down." Only he and Anya look forward to a new life, free of the old ties that bind.
The action revolves around the various love affairs, while it becomes almost like a dirge. Everything is permeated with a feeling of dread, almost like Dostoyevsky. Lopakhin always reminds them of the auction so he can get the cherry orchard. Everyone ignores him.
When the day of the auction comes they hire a band, even though they have no money to pay them. The tension rises perceptibly as time passes with no word. Ranevskaya tells Petya "you can't imagine anything really bad because you're too young to know trouble. I was born here. Without the cherry orchard life has no meaning for me. If it must be sold, sell me with it." Lopakhin bursts in: He has bought the estate in a bidding war for 90,000 rubles, 40,000 above the debt. He now owns the estate where his father and grandfather were slaves.
The final scene is desolation.
Everybody is going away and the trunks are stacked in the house.
Lopakhin brings champagne, but no one will drink. It has always been
assumed that Lopakhin would marry Ranevskaya's adopted daughter
Varya, but the proposal never comes and they go their separate ways.
Anya and Petya are the only happy ones as they are now free to begin
a new life. The old servant Firs, who longs for the days when masters
were masters and slaves were slaves is the only one left as he lays
down and dies.
This was an outstanding cast led by Michele Farr's Ranevskaya. She's distracted almost everywhere. She lives, in her own world with token visits to the rest of us. The past happiness is her life and it's all symbolized by the cherry orchard. Rick Hamilton's Lopakhin is outwardly confident. He's wealthy and secure in that, but there's an inner awareness of his serfdom that bursts out at times. He can't make sense of good books; his hand writing is atrocious, and he's obsessed with cutting down that cherry orchard.
Kristin Bennett cuts a sad figure as Varya. Her happiness is so close, but she "can't propose to him" and is doomed to sorrow. Henson Keys' Firs is indomitable. He was a serf and will always be a serf. Likewise with Dennis Roberson's Leonid. "He is a man of the '80's." He was a serf owning nobleman. His serfs were stripped from him; his nobility, never. Michael A. Harding's Petya yearns for the advancement of man. He will be in the vanguard of the new awareness, and would probably have been a leader of The October Revolution of 1917. Mary Dolson's Anya is just sweet, lovable, and happy to be free of her past. Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" was a deeply moving, thought provoking drama at The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. It continues into September.