Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the cherry orchard

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The Cherry Orchard was a very interesting play, one quite different from the other performances we have seen this quarter. Chekhov has a very unique way of writing his plays. I personally did not enjoy this performance as much as some of the others I have seen, but overall it was still a great production.

Anton Chekhov’s work is focused on the idea that the lack of action is precisely the point of the production. The plot is what makes the relationship between the actors, not the story itself. His plays are based on indirect, not direct action. He doesn’t include any moralizing in his plays, or making the audience feel like there was a lesson to be learned. His characters consist of heroism or enduring personality, and his villains take advantage of others, and are more like predators than villains in the formal context of the word. The language he uses through his characters is enforcing the idea of the future. In stead of saying that things are good, he will emphasize that “it will be great” and the future is full of great expectations. There is no dwelling on the past. His plays just sort of end, with no real climax to leave the audience in feeling good.

There were many production concepts that went into the building of this performance. One day during lecture we had a visit from Vicki Scott, who explained the many things that go into creating a performance like this one. She concluded that it’s not just the actors that make a performance good. It is the lighting, set design, and costuming that makes the performance tie together and be great. The director of this production wanted to create a feeling of realism. He wanted to avoid the architecture of the proscenium arch and make the audience feel like what they were seeing was real, and really feel like they are in the time period where the story takes place. Photographs of art and other real pictures were the inspiration for coming up with the set design and the way the lighting would fit in with the characters on the stage. The lighting in this production was very noticeable. There wasn’t just a spotlight on the character speaking. The whole group on stage was lit up and each character possessed its own lighting based on the clothing they were wearing or where they were standing on stage. The lighting would change as the mood changed between the characters. The lighting also helped to distinguish when the scene was outside or if they were looking out at the cherry orchard and what it might look like. The lighting was a huge aspect of this play and allowed for the characters to express their words and thoughts in a much more dramatic way.

This play is very much about what is seen and what is not seen. The cherry orchard exists beyond the window in the nursery of the house. It is spoken of many times in the play yet we never actually see it. Act two is even outside yet it is not in the cherry orchard. Instead the audience is left to imagine it solely based on the descriptions that the characters provide and the emotions that the orchard leads them to feel. The director wanted the audience to imagine the cherry orchard for ourselves in our imagination and feel for it what we wanted to. Not seeing the orchard is much more powerful than actually seeing it. It allows the audience to care for it just like the family, even though we have never seen it up close. We also see the characters continuing to act as they exit the stage. This allows the audience to think that the stage does not end where the set does. Instead it is a real house, with other rooms and people that we do not see on stage. Voices come from off stage all the time yet we never see those people speak or where they are in the house. This brings the value of realism to its fullest extent and allows the audience to be caught up in the moment.

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I think that the director of this play was trying to give the audience an idea of what it was like to be living during a time of depression and seeing how the lack of having money can really affect people’s lives. It all boils down being so deeply attached to something so absurd that it can ruin your whole life. I think that the direction of this play was very successful in proving this idea and through the use of the production concepts I was able to visualize the time and feel like I was experiencing it side by side with them.

Unfortunately I didn’t exactly enjoy this play to the extent that I would have liked to. Chekhov’s writing style is somewhat boring to me and I hate being left at the end with no closure. I didn’t like how everyone just got up and left in the last act and how it seemed like no grudges were felt. The characters seemed very unrealistic to me and I felt it almost hard to believe their stories. It’s hard to imagine that two people can be in love and not want to be together. It’s also hard to see such na├»ve people trying to make things right.

Though I did not like this play I think it had good potential. The actors in this production were good, yet overplayed. Perhaps if the characters had played down their parts a little better, it would have been easier to believe. The storyline was a good one, yet the action of the play was boring and uninteresting. I would hope that the next Chekhov play/production that I see will be more entertaining and interesting to watch.

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