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
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.
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.