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Evergreen Players impress with Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard

There may not be a city more fitting as the backdrop to Anton Chekhov’s work than Baltimore right now. The weather is always as cold as Dante’s hell or else a moist 95°, nobody listens to each other (hint hint election-voting private citizens), natural resources get leased out to whoever’s got the most cash, and constant helicopter police-state manhunts–well alright, maybe that one’s just us. So, thank whoever sits above the clouds (aka drama professor and director James Bunzli) that the Evergreen Players chose Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard as their latest performance.

The plot centers on a family who has to sell their cherry orchard to pay off their debts. Lopakhin (Joe Mucciolo) has come to inform them of just how dire the situation is, taking the role of realist while the rest of the family act in in an airheaded way about it. The family includes Ranevskaya (Anna DeBlasio), Gayev (Ryan Mattox), Anya (Ella Jordan), and Varya (Alex Chouinard). Ranevskaya and Gayev are the two most caught up in this decision making, while romantic and poignant subplots play out around them. Characters constantly rush in and out, with no time to listen to the reason of Lopakhin or the monolgues of Gayev. Everyone is blatantly honest, to the point of harsh melancholy. Basically, it’s a classic Russian play. Those fans of Shakespearean soliloquy will be disappointed, but Chekhov was simultaneously looking out for the rest of us and reinforcing one of the play’s major themes: a transition from the past to more modern times.

This theme plays out most prominently in the characters of Yasha (Nick Jones) and Firs (Nick Johnston). It’s Nick vs. Nick in this generational clash. Yasha is a brash young servant who is strongwilled and brash throughout the narrative. He is supposedly indicative of the new youth movement in Russia that will fuel a revolution. He has no time for the affections of Dunyasha (Maggie Mellott), a maid who is madly in love with him. Firs, on the other hand, is constantly looking out for the family members by making certain they’re wearing their coats, checking in on their health, and remembering anything they might have forgotten. In between those actions he mumbles on and on about regretting the emancipation of the serfs, embodying the old Russian order that is rapidly dying out.

In addition to this obvious theme of old vs new, many see Cherry Orchard as being a self-referential work. Chekhov makes multiple allusions to his past works, even addressing his own idea of “Chekhov’s gun.” This is a principle quoted from Chekhov all the time: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” He himself breaks this rule when Charlotta (Claire McCrea) handles a rifle at the beginning of act two that is never used again.

The set itself was fantastic, designed by Daniel Pinha, another theatre professor here at Loyola. It consisted of a bare, thin wooden house frame broken up with multiple, just-as-bare tree trunks. It was successfully as grim, empty and discombobulated as the characters that danced through it.

Those characters did have a few faulty moments, particularly when they suffered from Inception-virus syndrome when all eyes were on whichever actor was supposed to speak at that moment, but overall the performance was good. It was carried through by the particularly strong talents of Nick Johnston, Joe Mucciolo, and Anna DeBlasio. And we can be sure that there was tons of elbow-grease put into getting the show running by the crew. Overall? Job well done.

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Evergreen Players impress with Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard