A well-balanced brew
THE COFFEE TREES
Written by Arthur Giron
Suggested by Anton Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD
Directed by Dr. Marion Castleberry
Resonance Ensemble (http://www.resonanceensemble.org)
Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row,
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by Michael D. Jackson
Playing in repertory with a slightly adapted The Cherry Orchard, Arthur Giron’s take on the story, now set in 1997 Guatemala, is more of the comedy that Chekhov claimed his original play to be. The idea of The Cherry Orchard being classified as a comedy has always been debatable and certainly the Resonance Ensemble’s production was not a comedy, but Giron’s version filled the story with plenty of humor and director Dr. Marion Castleberry directed the play like a comedy with a swift pace that skipped along with merriment for the first act. The second act, however, turned to the dramatic for the most part, veering far from the plot of Chekhov’s original to become a new play. This is not a good thing necessarily, for the new story rambles around and seems to end three times, with comedy bits interjected at ludicrous moments. Finally, this story, unlike the original, comes to a tidy and much happier ending that did Chekhov’s play.
The matriarch of this version, Elena Reyes de Escalante, was embodied with all the dramatic majesty of Judith Anderson by Christine Farrell. This is not the fragile, nostalgic Lubov Ranevsky of Chekhov, but a dynamo who truly rules the roost. She is like a lioness to her brood - a calculating, fearless protector of her family. The majority of the old characters are retained, albeit with new names and backgrounds, but their functions in the play are very different. Chief example is Pyoter Trofimov the student, now Manny the former soccer star and sports commentator. Like Trofimov, Manny (Steven Pounders) is welcomed as part of the family, so when it is he that buys the plantation rather than the former peasant character Lopez (Lopakhin in the original and played by Teddy Canez), Chekhov’s family tragedy is thrown out the window for the inevitable happy ending.
The supporting cast was
uniformly great, making the comedy work even where it shouldn’t and then
turning on a dime to be serious as a stroke, threatening each other with guns
and managing a potentially disastrous death scene believably. Chris Ceraso played Antonio Reyes, the brother to Elena. He was a much more effective actor in this
play than he was in the similar role from Chekhov, not to mention that Giron
has developed the part into a more interesting person. Elizabeth
A. Davis returned from the Chekhov to play Varya in the form of Barbara
Escalante and she emerged as the true moral center of the family.
set from The Cherry Orchard was redressed from the nursery of a southern
plantation to the school room of
Overall, Giron’s version of the tale, although uneven in the second act, was a much more energetic and exciting production than The Cherry Orchard. Much of the credit for this goes to Castleberry for guiding the actors towards the right tone to make the combination of high comedy and serious drama work together so well.
Copyright 2007 by Michael D. Jackson
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