Apples and oranges


The Cherry Orchard


Written by Anton Chekhov

Adapted and Directed by Eric Parness

Resonance Ensemble (

Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Aves.)

Equity Showcase (closed)

Review by Michael D. Jackson


Director and adaptor Eric Parness has reset the Chekhov classic Russian play to the American South of 1948. This change goes right along with the original story having to do with the freedom of the Russian serfs - a peasant class formerly owned by Russian aristocracy - to the African Americans whose grandparents were born into slavery. The plot of the original play really does fit perfectly into an American landscape, but for some reason Parness did not completely adapt the play to fit his concept. Although the characters look and act like the American South, they still uttered references to Russia. The Russian names were retained and money was still referred to as rubles throughout. The Russian serfs were replaced by slaves, so it is a wonder the entire play wasn’t adapted to fit the visual production. Outside of this consistency, the Resonance Ensemble has mounted a fair production of The Cherry Orchard.


Heading the play as landowner Lubov Ranevsky was Susan Ferrara, giving an invested performance as a fading southern belle matriarch. Elizabeth A. Davis gave a performance of great depth as the adopted daughter Varya. Ben Masur was extremely likable as the eternal student, Trofimov. Brian D. Coats made an excellent representation of the dying old south as Fiers, seeming believably ancient and of a time long gone. James Ware gave a perfectly balanced performance, riding the line between friend and foe as Lopakhin, the merchant to buys the southern estate as a commemoration to his slave ancestors. Yet, for all the good work going on, the overall ensemble of thirteen collectively seemed displaced and not completely connected to the world of the play.


The design of the production was particularly good overall. Dustin O’Neill’s set was a frame structure that let us see beyond the walls of the central room to the outside and yet had the majesty of a grand plantation. Bobby Bradley’s light design included the special effects of cloud formations rolling across a starlit sky. Sidney Shannon’s costumes gave the immediate recognition of a general 1940s era with styles looking complete from head to toe, if not exactly representative of 1948.


This production was presented in repertory with another adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, set in Guatemala in 1997 and written by Arthur Giron, called The Coffee Trees. Resonance Ensemble’s thesis is that Chekhov’s play is still fundamentally universal. Actually, the play could be set in any number of times and places, for there will always be an older society giving way to the new. We will always lament the passing of what we loved about the old and a younger generation will always embrace the excitement of the changing future. Chekhov’s play will never seem old, whether adapted or simply presented in its original form.


Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2


Copyright 2007 by Michael D. Jackson



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