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Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)   
The Cherry Orchard 

Written by Anton Chekhov 
Directed by Zachary Davis  
Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main St. (map)
thru May 5  |  tickets: $15-$25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Big Russian classic revived in small Evanston theater space


Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)


Piccolo Theatre presents


The Cherry Orchard

Review by J.H. Palmer

The Cherry Orchard, written in 1904, is Anton Chekhov’s final play, and reflects the social and political climate of the time. It’s helpful to know something about Russia in the early years of the 20th-century to understand it, and fortunately there’s a Wikipedia entry that lists each of the fourteen or so characters in the play, with a paragraph describing each, and if you don’t have time to digest all of that information Piccolo’s playbill includes the

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)
following historical note:

The czar abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861. The declaration said nothing about giving land to the peasants, and pressures from landowners made the transition endlessly complicated. This act,  referred to in the play as Freedom, is the first push toward the dissolution and mixing of class structures in Russia. It also, in part, leads to the Russian Revolution of 1905, a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire closing the gap between peasants and fading aristocratic class. The result of the Revolution of 1905 was the October Manifesto granting civil liberties and the first ever Russian Constitution granting limited democracy (while still allowing the czar to hold strong veto power.) This tenuous arrangement held until the 1917 Revolution completely destroyed the czarist autocracy paving the way for the formation of the Soviet Union.

It’s interesting to consider that Chekov died before the 1917 Revolution.

Piccolo uses their limited space in typically creative fashion; the actors use both the front and back entry points to the theater as part of the stage space, at times delivering lines from beyond the audience’s sightlines. I was a little worried that I’d lose track of who was playing whom, and being less than familiar with the play, could have used some kind of family tree-type diagram to help understand the characters’ relationships to each other. I understood the basic plotline: Madame Lyubov Andreievna Ranevskaya (Amy Gorelow) has mixed feelings about selling her beloved cherry orchard, and Yermolai Alexeievitch Lopakhin (Glenn Proud), is in a position to buy it. Lopakhin comes from a lower social class than Ranevskaya, which he refers to when he mentions his forefathers’ serfdom, and how much better his lot in life is than theirs was. Threaded into this exchange of property are three separate love interests: Varya (Berner Taylor) and Lopakhin, who have a tenuous flirtation; Yasha (Kurt Proepper) who toys with the affections of Dunyasha (Nicole Keating); and Anya (Alyson Grauer) and Peter Trofimov (Scott Patrick Sawa), whose romance is the only one that comes to fruition over the course of the play.

Added to the mix are: Boris Borisovich Simeonov-Pishchik (Andrew Koppelman), an eccentric landowner in constant search of a friendly loan from Ranevskaya; Leonid Andreieveitch Gayev (David W.M. Kelch), Ranevskaya’s colorful and talkative brother who has a penchant for billiards; Charlotta Ivanovna (Basia Kapolka), the orphaned child of circus entertainers who has a theatrical flair and has been hired to be Anya’s companion; the hapless clerk Yepikhodov, who has unrequited feelings for Dunyasha; Firs (Michael D. Graham), an aging manservant who is descending into madness; and a number of minor characters including Homeless Man, Stationmaster, and Servant (all played by Warwick Johnson).

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)
Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)
Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)

It’s a lot to keep track of, and there were moments when I definitely felt like having a minor in Russian Studies, or at least having read the play beforehand, would have helped. The play runs long (2 and a half hours), which tests the limits of audience interest, but there were moments that made it worth it: towards the end of Act I the stage direction that is central to the recent Theater Oobleck production The Hunchback Variations Opera (my review) made me sit up high in my seat like a prairie dog and look around the house to see if anyone else in the audience was as excited as I to finally hear a successful aural rendition of the stage direction that reads: “Coming as if out of the sky, like the sound of a string snapping, slowly and sadly dying away.”

Though Piccolo has assembled a fine cast, the performances of Amy Gorelow, Berner Taylor, Alyson Grauer, David W.M. Kelch, and Glenn Proud stand out as particularly hearty, with strong support from the rest of the cast. If you’re a Chekhov fan, a Piccolo fan, or a fan of Russian literature, you’d enjoy spending the evening with this cast.


Rating: ★★½



The Cherry Orchard continues through May 5th at the Evanston Arts Depot, 600 Main Street, Evanston (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$25, and are available by phone (847-424-0089) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, which includes a 15-minute intermission)

Review: The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theatre)

All photos by REP3



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