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THE CHERRY ORCHARD

By ANTON CHEKHOV

Adaptation by Trevor Griffiths

Directed by Gregg W. Brevoort

CULVER CITY PUBLIC THEATRE
CULVER CITY, CA

 

CULVER CITY NEWS
Spend An Afternoon In ‘The Cherry Orchard’
By Mary Templeton

– “A wonderful experience ... strikes just the right note”

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov is the final production of the 2004 Summer Season by the venerable Culver City Public Theatre. “The Public,” as it is called, continues to present consistently professional theatre in what has to be one of the most pleasant venues of the area.

In the middle of Carlson Park (Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park at Motor Avenue and Braddock Drive) the repertory theatrical troupe sets up flats as the back wall of the stage set. Behind them, under awnings, are the cast’s dressing rooms, wardrobe and make-up areas.

In front of the “stage” the audience sits on lawn chairs and beach blankets. Seating is on a first come, first served basis, but there are enough large trees to provide shade for all who want it.

This is one of The Public’s most ambitious seasons to date. In addition to three classic “adult” plays, the company added a children’s play for a new “Children’s Popcorn Theatre.” Also, two of the regular plays, including The Cherry Orchard, have runs of three weekends instead of the usual two.

The Cherry Orchard was first produced in Moscow in 1904. It is the story of Madame Ranevsky and her household facing the sale of her country estate, including its great cherry orchard, on the auction block.

Director Gregg W. Brevoort told the News that it was a wonderful experience for the cast to see the actual trees of Carlson Park when the play calls for them to look out at the cherry orchard. He uses the setting well, too, when the household members make their first dramatic entrance by circling the park before entering the “set” on their initial return to the estate from Paris.

Chekhov regarded this play as a comedy, and, indeed, it is, although there are certainly elements of farce and tragedy as well. Essentially, the sale of the estate symbolizes the end of an era for the Russian aristocracy.

Program notes explain that Chekhov “developed the concept of ‘indirect action,’ in which the dramatic action takes place off stage and the significance of the play revolves around the reactions of the characters to those unseen events.”

That means that the audience doesn’t see the auction of the estate, or other events of the play, but hears what the characters have to say about them, and has the opportunity to watch how they interact with each other. It is a play of character studies, with a rich group of characters to examine.

Madame Ranevsky is in denial over the reality of her financial situation and, as played by Melody Gillette, strikes just the right note of autocratic imperiousness and foolishness.

She ignores suggestions that could save her estate, most notably made by Alexander Lopakhin, a rich man who has risen above his peasant roots, well played by Dean Edward.

Tom Hyer is Madame Ranevsky’s brother, Leon Gayev, and Jenny Martin and Andrea Westby play her daughters, Anya and Varya. The entire cast meets the challenge of this complex play.

One of the most notable aspects of the Culver City Public Theatre is that it presents examples of great classic theatre. These works have proven their worth through the years, so that the public has an opportunity to see plays of substance in a setting that makes theatre figuratively and literally accessible to all.